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Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay US$4.7bn in damages to women in talc cancer case

The women alleged J&J knew its talc contained asbestos since the 1970s and covered up the evidence
Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson says it is 'deeply disappointed in the verdict'

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) has been ordered to pay US$4.7bn to 22 women who claim the company’s talc products contain asbestos that caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

Following a six-week trial at a court in the US state of Missouri, the jury in the ruled in favour of the women who were awarded US$500mln in compensation and US$4.1mln in punitive damages.

Mark Lanier, the lawyer representing the women, said J&J knew its talc contained asbestos since the 1970s and covered up the evidence.

"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," he said.

Johnson & Johnson to appeal verdict

J&J denies the allegation and plans to appeal the court decision after successfully overturning previous cases.

“Johnson & Johnson is deeply disappointed in the verdict, which was the product of a fundamentally unfair process," it said in a statement.

"Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were worse than those in the prior trials which have been reversed."

READ: J&J hit with US$21.7mln verdict in second talcum powder-cancer trial

The group, which is battling another 9,000 cases involving its baby talcum powder, claims studies have shown the products to be safe.

Studies on talc give contradictory results

The US Food and Drug Administration commissioned a study that collected a variety of talc samples, including J&J’s baby powder, from 2009 to 2010 that found no asbestos in any of them.

However, there are some studies that have linked the use of talcum powder to cancer risk. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies talc used on the genitals as “possibly carcinogenic” due to mixed evidence.

Mineral talc in its natural form contains asbestos that causes cancer but studies on asbestos-free talc used in baby powder and other cosmetics give contradictory results. 

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