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