Jurors hearing evidence in Missouri’s sixth talcum powder ovarian cancer trial heard from a Plaintiffs’ expert this week, who assured the panel that talc is indeed toxic.
“I don’t think there’s any question talc is toxic,” pharmacology and toxicology expert Laura M. Plunkett said during testimony Monday in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court for St. Louis City. “And I’m going to talk about the evidence today, I don’t feel there’s any question about this at all, it’s taught in textbooks.”
Plunkett was testifying on behalf of three women who died from ovarian cancer following long-term use of Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes. All three were allegedly found to have talc in their ovaries.
According to Plunkett, who once served as a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry, long-term exposure to talc parties can cause inflammation, which is linked to cancer. She also suggested that talc molecules could enter cells, possibly changing the expression of genes in ways that could promote tumor growth.
Johnson & Johnson currently faces more than 3,000 similar talcum powder lawsuits in courts around the country. In addition to Missouri, cases have been ben centralized in several other state courts, including New Jersey, Delaware and California. Talcum powder claims filed on the federal level have been consolidated before a single judge the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey.
All of the pending talcum powder lawsuits were filed on behalf of women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer due to the long-term use of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes. Plaintiffs claim that the company has long been aware of research linking genital talc use to an increased risk for the often-deadly disease. Yet, the healthcare products giant took no action to warn consumers and even engaged in an intense lobbying campaign to ensure regulators did not designate talc a human carcinogen.
So far, only one Missouri jury has returned a verdict for Johnson & Johnson. In May, the jury assembled for the state’s fifth trial awarded a victim of terminal ovarian cancer $110 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Last October, a woman from California was awarded $70 million by the jury hearing her case. Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $55 million to a South Dakota ovarian cancer survivor in May 2016, while the family of an Alabama woman who died of the disease was awarded $72 million in February of that year.