A California woman has been awarded more than $70 million after she claimed in a lawsuit that Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder caused her cancer.
In a trial that began Sept. 26, Deborah Giannecchini of Modesto, Calif. alleged that her ovarian cancer, diagnosed in in 2012, was a result of her years of use of the product.
“We are pleased the jury did the right thing. They once again reaffirmed the need for Johnson & Johnson to warn the public of the ovarian cancer risk associated with its product,” Jim Onder, an attorney for the plaintiff, told The Associated Press.
Johnson & Johnson maintains it’s baby powder is perfectly safe. “We deeply sympathize with the women and families impacted by ovarian cancer,” Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman with Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement. “We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”
Some studies suggest a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, but scientists say it's not clear yet whether products containing talc can cause the disease.
"Studies of personal use of talcum powder have had mixed results, although there is some suggestion of a possible increase in ovarian cancer risk," the American Cancer Society says on its website. "There is very little evidence at this time that any other forms of cancer are linked with consumer use of talcum powder."
Earlier this year, two other lawsuits in St. Louis ended in jury verdicts worth a combined $127 million. But two others 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 U.S. this year.
About 2,000 women have filed similar suits, and lawyers are reviewing thousands of other potential cases, most generated by ads touting the two big verdicts out of St. Louis — a $72 million award in February to relatives of an Alabama woman who died of ovarian cancer, and a $55 million award in May to a South Dakota survivor of the disease.
Talcum powder is made from talc, which absorbs moisture well and helps cut down on friction. That makes it useful for keeping skin dry and preventing rashes. The powder was used for many years when diapering babies, but health concerns led doctors to recommend against its use. Talc is still widely used in other cosmetics.
Contributing: The Associated Press