Judge Rules Conspiracy Theories in Talcum Powder Cases are Valid

As pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson faces additional lawsuits regarding the link between ovarian cancer and baby powder, a judge has ruled that the claims of conspiracy on the part of J & J are valid. The conspiracy claim alleges J & J purposefully engaged in concealing information on cancer risks from those using the company's two brands of talcum powder-J & J Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talcum powder. Concealing known information of cancer risks from consumers is a potentially illegal activity.

Marketing Push to Continue Sales of Talcum Powder Despite Adverse Reports

Talcum powder was originally most often used on babies as a means of preventing diaper rash. Once Johnson & Johnson learned women were using Johnson's Baby Powder as a body powder, a full-blown marketing push occurred. J & J even added to its line with the introduction of Shower-to-Shower talcum powder marketed directly to women. As far back as 1982, studies suggested a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer and a 1968 study concluded the fibers in talc were similar to those found in asbestos.

In 2008 the FDA received multiple petitions asking that talcum powder be regulated, but all those requests were either unacknowledged or were denied outright due to lobbying efforts by Johnson & Johnson. A 2013 study was published in Cancer Prevention Research which found that women who used talcum powder in the genital area had a 20-30 percent greater risk of developing ovarian cancer. Johnson & Johnson refused to remove their talcum powder products from the store shelves, and continued to sell the products without warnings of the danger.

Lawsuits Against J & J and Others

The first lawsuit regarding the use of talcum powder and its link to ovarian cancer was filed in October, 2013. A 56-year old woman, diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, claimed Johnson & Johnson knew, or should have known, their Shower-to-Shower talcum powder product could potentially cause ovarian cancer. Despite that knowledge, no warnings were provided with the powder other than to avoid contact with eyes, avoid inhalation and keep away from children. The woman's cancerous ovarian tissues were examined by three doctors who found talc in the tissues, leading them to determine the talc directly caused her ovarian cancer.

While a South Dakota jury found in favor of the plaintiff in this case, the products remained on store shelves, and the company still refused to issue warnings regarding the use of talcum powder. At that trial, one expert witness testified talcum powder could be a contributing factor in as many as 10,000 annual cases of ovarian cancer. Following this successful talcum powder lawsuit came a wrongful death case from Missouri. The Missouri case is the first to allege conspiracy, and is brought by the husband of the woman who used talc products from 1972 to the time of her death in 2011. This woman battled ovarian cancer for more than three years; the lawsuit names Johnson & Johnson, Imerys Talc America and other defendants and alleges civil conspiracy and concert of action. A jury trial in this case has been scheduled for March 7, 2016.

Under the concert of action theory, Johnson & Johnson launched a task force whose express purpose was to pool financial resources in order to defend talc use at all costs. It is hard to imagine a company who would willfully ignore large bodies of research which correlate the use of talc with the development of ovarian cancer. Approximately 21,980 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed each year, and 14,270 of those women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will die from the disease. Scientists believe talc particles, when applied to the genital area, can travel into a woman's body, triggering inflammation, and giving cancer cells the opportunity to flourish. It is believed that at least 40 percent of all women regularly use talc powders for personal hygiene.