J&J Ordered to Pay $72 Million for Cancer Death

26.02.2016 -

A jury hearing a claim in a Missouri state circuit court against US healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has found the company liable for fraud, negligence and conspiracy in the death of a 63-year-old Alabama woman from ovarian cancer.

The family of Jacqueline Fox, who used the company's talc-based feminine hygiene products Baby Powder and Shower to Shower for several decades and died in October 2015, will receive $10 million in actual damages and $62 million of punitive damages.

The Shower to Shower brand is now owned by Valeant; however, the Canada-headquartered drugmaker was not a defendant in the Fox case.

Some 1,200 lawsuits have been filed against J&J over its talc-based products, but this was the first verdict involving punitive damages. The suits claim that in the interest of preserving sales the company neglected to warn consumers that the products could cause cancer.

In October 2013, a US federal jury in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, found J&J’s body powder products to have been a factor in the ovarian cancer developed by another woman. No damages were awarded, reports said.

In a statement, the company said: “We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers, and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial. We sympathize with the plaintiff's family but firmly believe the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence.”

Although a link between talc-based products and cancer has not been established, a Cambridge University professor of cancer epidemiology, Paul Pharoah, said in response to the judgment he believes it is “biologically plausible” for talc to enter a woman’s fallopian tubes and inflame the ovaries, potentially leading to cancer.

The risk is small, however, Pharoah told British newspapers, adding that he thought a UK court would not make the same decision as the Missouri jurors because the strength of the association is too small.