Johnson & Johnson loses bid to move suits from Missouri courts
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun a research study exploring the potential link between ovarian cancer and talc in cosmetics.
The agency’s Office of Color and Cosmetics is also updating its review of epidemiological publications on the use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer, an FDA spokesperson told Chemical Watch.
The lab research is a new project funded by the Office of Women’s Health. It seeks to investigate talc’s effects on female genital system tissues, which “have not been adequately investigated,” according to the research summary.
“This proposed research,” it says, “will help to fill some of the existing data gaps in the molecular and genetic events associated with early ovarian oncogenesis, as these are largely unknown.
“Specifically, the association of such oncogenesis, with respect to exposure to [talc], is of particular interest to women’s health, and our studies could prove to be useful as possible experimental models for further mechanistic studies in ovarian carcinogenesis.”
Results aren’t expected for a few years.
The agency action comes amid a surge in class-action lawsuits against personal care products conglomerate Johnson & Johnson. The company has been found liable for punitive damages from ovarian cancer linked to the use of its talc-containing products in three high-profile cases in Missouri. And it faces thousands of additional complaints in several states.
Johnson & Johnson has stood by the safety of its products. It is appealing the three suits, each of which awarded damages between $55m and $72m. The most recent ruling also held supplier Imerys Talc liable.
The verdicts helped catapult Missouri’s City of St Louis court to the top of the American Tort Reform Foundation’s (ATRF) list of ‘Judicial Hellholes’ this year. The annual report from the industry-backed nonprofit ranks jurisdictions where judges “systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally to the disadvantage of defendants.”
Due to this environment, and as most of the plaintiffs with pending claims are not Missouri residents, Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc sought to move the majority of the lawsuits to plaintiffs’ home jurisdictions. But last month, the Missouri Supreme Court denied the requests.
The fourth Missouri trial is set to begin today.
Meanwhile, an early July trial date has been set in California to hear the first case in a similar class-action suit involving hundreds of plaintiffs.
And in New Jersey, where two cases against Johnson & Johnson were dismissed last year, plaintiffs’ lawyers have argued that the trial judge erred when he excluded expert testimony linking talcum powder and ovarian cancer. The attorneys are appealing the dismissals to the state’s Superior Court.
Johnson & Johnson declined to provide a comment on the FDA’s new investigations or the status of ongoing appeals in Missouri.