Women who say talc gave them cancer win £3.6bn pay­out

Daily Mail - - News - By Ben Spencer Med­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent b.spencer@dai­ly­mail.co.uk

A GROUP of women with ovar­ian cancer have been awarded £3.6bil­lion in dam­ages over fears that tal­cum pow­der caused their dis­ease.

Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal gi­ant John­son & John­son was ac­cused of hid­ing ev­i­dence that its prod­ucts con­tained as­bestos dur­ing a sixweek court case in the US.

The firm insists there is no as­bestos in its prod­ucts, and de­nies any link to cancer or any cover-up.

But a jury at a court in St Louis, Mis­souri, or­dered it pay $4.7bil­lion to 22 women, in­clud­ing $550mil­lion (£419mil­lion) in com­pen­sa­tion and an ad­di­tional $4.14bil­lion (£3.15bil­lion) in puni­tive dam­ages.

Six of the 22 women have al­ready died from ovar­ian cancer.

Their lawyers claimed as­bestos, a known cause of cancer, is mixed in with min­eral talc, which is crushed into a fine pow­der to make the pri­mary in­gre­di­ent in tal­cum pow­der.

The trial is the lat­est in a string of cases against the com­pany – but has re­sulted in by far the big­gest or­der against it. But all the pre­vi­ous cases have been over­turned on ap­peal, which J&J claimed it will do again. An­other 9,000 US women are lined up for sim­i­lar bids for com­pen­sa­tion.

Around 7,300 women are di­ag­nosed each year with ovar­ian cancer in the UK. No sim­i­lar cases have be­gun here against J& J, which ex­perts say is be­cause UK courts require a higher stan­dard of proof. How­ever, Bri­tish lawyers are closely watch­ing the cases.

Many doc­tors say the link between talc and cancer is un­proven, but in 2006 the ev­i­dence was con­sid­ered strong enough for the In­ter­na­tional Agency for Re­search on Cancer, a World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion agency, to clas­sify in­ti­mate use as ‘pos­si­bly car­cino­genic’.

In the US, the women’s lead lawyer, Mark Lanier, said: ‘For over 40 years, John­son & John­son has cov­ered up the ev­i­dence of as­bestos in their prod­ucts.

‘We hope this ver­dict will get the at­ten­tion of the J&J board and that it will lead them to bet­ter in­form the med­i­cal com­mu­nity and the pub­lic about the con­nec­tion between as­bestos, talc and ovar­ian cancer.

‘The com­pany should pull talc from the mar­ket be­fore caus­ing fur­ther an­guish, harm and death from a ter­ri­ble dis­ease. If J&J insists on con­tin­u­ing to sell talc, they should mark it with a se­ri­ous warn­ing.’

As­bestos fi­bres and talc par­ti­cles were said to have been found in the ovar­ian tis­sues of many of the women. But John­son & John­son, which de­nies any pres­ence of as­bestos in its prod­ucts, pointed out each law suit has ei­ther been re­versed on ap­peal or is pend­ing a de­ci­sion.

A spokesman said: ‘John­son & John­son re­mains con­fi­dent that its prod­ucts do not con­tain as­bestos and do not cause ovar­ian cancer. Every ver­dict against J&J in this court has been re­versed and the mul­ti­ple er­rors present in this trial were worse than those in prior tri­als which have been re­versed.’

Re­becca Rennison, a di­rec­tor at Bri­tish char­ity Tar­get Ovar­ian Cancer, ac­knowl­edged that any raised risk in us­ing talc is ‘very small’ but ad­vised women to use cau­tion when us­ing it.

‘Mark it with a warn­ing’

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