Two Talc-Ovarian Cancer Lawsuits Dismissed by NJ Judge

Nick Mulcahy

September 06, 2016

A New Jersey judge dismissed two women's lawsuits last week that blamed talcum powder from Johnson & Johnson for causing their ovarian cancer, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

Judge Nelson Johnson in Atlantic City ruled that the women could not produce sufficient medical evidence to show that Johnson's Baby Powder caused the cancer.

The company lost two similar trials in state court in St. Louis, Missouri.

There are more than 1000 suits in state and federal courts accusing the drugmaker of ignoring observational evidence that tied its talc products (Shower to Shower and Johnson's Baby Powder) to ovarian cancer.

The trials in New Jersey had been scheduled to start in October.

Judge Johnson said testimony from plaintiff-hired experts about the links between talc and ovarian cancer suffered from "multiple deficiencies" and did not provide legitimate grounds for the suits, according to the news report.

"The court's decision today appropriately reflects the science and facts at issue in this litigation," Carol Goodrich, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman, said in a statement. "Science, research, clinical evidence, and decades of studies by medical experts around the world continue to support the safety of cosmetic talc."

Ted Meadows, an Alabama-based lawyer representing the two plaintiffs, Brandi Carl and Diana Balderrama, said the New Jersey judge's ruling conflicted with other judges' findings that there is sufficient evidence linking talc powder use and ovarian cancer, which in turn have allowed cases to go to trial. "We are planning to appeal his ruling," said Meadows last week.

In a 33-page ruling, Judge Johnson said that paid experts' review of the links between talc and cancer suffered from "narrowness and shallowness" and did not provide reliable evidence that talc could cause the disease.

But other judges have come to different conclusions and have allowed court cases to proceed.

In a St. Louis trial in February of this year, a state-court jury ordered the giant maker of healthcare products to pay $10 million in compensatory damages and $62 million in a punishment award to the family of Jackie Fox from Birmingham, Alabama, who died of ovarian cancer in 2015 at the age of 62, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

That jury decision was the first financial award in a lawsuit related to this issue.

The trials have put a spotlight on the long-studied subject of the use of talc powder in the genital area and an increased risk for ovarian cancer, which has been repeatedly — but not always — found in epidemiologic studies, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

The only current consensus among researchers and organizations such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer on the link is that talc powder is a "possible" carcinogen (Lancet Oncol. 2006;7:295-296).

The New York Times recently reported that Johnson & Johnson's talc supplier added warning labels in 2006, but J&J did not add similar warnings to its products, according to litigation documents.

Follow Medscape senior journalist Nick Mulcahy on Twitter: @MulcahyNick

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