Money ‘can’t make up’ for lost health, Talc ver­dict win­ner says Jury awards over $70 mil­lion to Gian­nec­chini

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

When Deb­o­rah Gian­nec­chini was di­ag­nosed with stage 4 ovar­ian can­cer four years ago, it didn’t make sense. She had no fam­ily his­tory, nor did she seem a high risk. But months later, when her daugh­ter saw a TV ad for a law firm ask­ing ovar­ian can­cer vic­tims who used tal­cum pow­der to come for­ward, Gian­nec­chini re­al­ized a pos­si­ble link: She had been us­ing John­son & John­son’s baby pow­der for most of her life. “I used it for 45 years, from age 15,” Gian­nec­chini, now 63, said Fri­day. “I was still us­ing it.”

On Thurs­day, a St Louis jury awarded more than $70 mil­lion to Gian­nec­chini, of Modesto, Cal­i­for­nia, wrap­ping up a month­long trial. It was the third big ver­dict awarded by a St. Louis jury against John­son & John­son in ovar­ian can­cer law­suits this year. Com­bined, the three awards amount to nearly $200 mil­lion. Gian­nec­chini said she was happy with the ver­dict, but it doesn’t make up for the can­cer fight and on­go­ing health prob­lems caused by chemo­ther­apy. “There’s not enough money in the world to pay for fight­ing the can­cer,” she said at a news con­fer­ence ar­ranged by her lawyers.

A spokes­woman for John­son & John­son said in a state­ment that while the com­pany sym­pa­thizes with women and their fam­i­lies im­pacted by ovar­ian can­cer, it will ap­peal the lat­est ver­dict “be­cause we are guided by the sci­ence, which sup­ports the safety of John­son’s Baby Pow­der.” About 2,000 women na­tion­wide have filed sim­i­lar suits over con­cerns about health dam­age caused by ex­tended tal­cum pow­der use. Lawyers are re­view­ing many ad­di­tional cases, many of them gen­er­ated by tele­vi­sion ads by law firms.

In Fe­bru­ary, a St Louis jury awarded $72 mil­lion to rel­a­tives of an Alabama wo­man who died of ovar­ian can­cer. An­other jury awarded $55 mil­lion in May to a South Dakota sur­vivor of the dis­ease. But two cases in New Jersey were thrown out by a judge who said there wasn’t re­li­able ev­i­dence that talc leads to ovar­ian can­cer, an of­ten fa­tal but rel­a­tively rare form of can­cer. Ovar­ian can­cer ac­counts for about 22,000 of the 1.7 mil­lion new cases of can­cer ex­pected to be di­ag­nosed in the US this year.

Fac­tors known to in­crease a women’s risk of ovar­ian can­cer in­clude age, obe­sity, use of es­tro­gen ther­apy af­ter menopause, not hav­ing any chil­dren, cer­tain ge­netic mu­ta­tions and per­sonal or fam­ily his­tory of breast or ovar­ian can­cer. Talc is a min­eral that is mined from de­posits around the world, in­clud­ing the US. The soft­est of min­er­als, it’s crushed into a white pow­der. It’s been widely used in cos­met­ics and other per­sonal care prod­ucts to ab­sorb mois­ture since at least 1894, when John­son & John­son’s baby pow­der was launched.

But it’s mainly used in a va­ri­ety of other prod­ucts, in­clud­ing paint and plas­tics. Much re­search has found no link or a weak one be­tween ovar­ian can­cer and us­ing baby pow­der for fem­i­nine hy­giene, and most ma­jor health groups have de­clared talc harm­less. Still, the In­ter­na­tional Agency for Re­search on Can­cer clas­si­fies gen­i­tal use of talc as “pos­si­bly car­cino­genic.” At­tor­neys with On­der, Shel­ton, O’Leary & Peter­son, the firm that han­dled all three St. Louis cases, cited other re­search that be­gan con­nect­ing tal­cum pow­der to ovar­ian can­cer in the 1970s.

They cite case stud­ies show­ing that women who reg­u­larly use talc on their gen­i­tal area face up to a 40 per­cent higher risk of de­vel­op­ing ovar­ian can­cer. The firm has also ac­cused John­son & John­son of mar­ket­ing to­ward over­weight women, blacks and His­pan­ics - the very same women most at-risk for ovar­ian can­cer. Wylie Blair, an at­tor­ney for Gian­nec­chini, said the firm is work­ing with about 1,700 ad­di­tional plain­tiffs. An­other trial is sched­uled for Fe­bru­ary.

Blair said there has been no talk with John­son & John­son con­cern­ing a class-ac­tion set­tle­ment. “Ac­knowl­edg­ing that a sem­i­nal prod­uct that ev­ery­body iden­ti­fies with the com­pany has been caus­ing a hor­ri­ble dis­ease for all these years is go­ing to be a tough pill to swal­low for them,” Blair said. Gian­nec­chini said that as of now there is no ev­i­dence of can­cer, but she won’t know for years if she is free of the dis­ease. “One day at a time,” she said. “Just stay hope­ful.” —AP

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