Talcum Powder Cancer, Xarelto and Hip Implants
J&J Faces 50,000 Lawsuits
Monday, September 23, 2019 - Johnson & Johnson, the world's largest pharmaceutical company is facing roughly 50,000 product liability lawsuits for several of its medical devices, cosmetic products and pharmaceutical drugs. Forbes estimates the overall cost of resolving all this litigation will be over $6 billion. What impact will this have on the pharmaceutical giant?
Of the estimated 50,000 lawsuits the company faces, around 14,000 of them concern talcum powder cancer. These claims fall into two categories: ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. The vast majority have been filed by women who allege their diagnosis of ovarian cancer is linked to their use of talc-based products for feminine hygiene.
A large number of women in the United States have made the use of talc products, such as Shower-to-Shower and Johnson's Baby Powder, a part of their daily hygiene routine for decades. The softest mineral in the world, talc is favored for its moisture-absorbing qualities, preventing chafing. The gentle scent added to these products acts as a deodorizer. For these reasons, many women dust their perineal or genital area with baby powder, which research shows increases their likelihood of developing ovarian cancer.
The general understanding of how this happens is as follows: Baby powder is dusted on the perineal area, and small talc particles migrate into the reproductive system through the vagina. Travelling into the fallopian tubes, they come to rest in the ovaries. Though soft, talc is not water-soluble and thus remains intact in the body for decades and result in an inflammatory response. Inflammation supports the growth of irregular cells growth, which can result in cancer. This is how researchers explain the rise in ovarian cancer rates among women who have used talc products for feminine hygiene.
The rest of the talcum powder cancer cases concern allegations of mesothelioma of the lungs from the inhalation of talc-based powders. These claims allege the presence of asbestos in the products is the blame for causing the disease.
Though the majority are still unresolved, these claims have led to jury trials in numerous states and have resulted in compensation in the millions and billions awarded to the plaintiffs and their families. Forbes estimates the resolution of these cases could cost around $4 billion in total.
Litigation related to J&J's popular blood thinner, Xarelto, represents 25,000 of the 50,000 cases. Xarelto is prescribed to persons who are at risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and has been found to result in uncontrollable and life-threatening bleeding. Together with Bayer, Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $75 million to resolve all the cases--an average of $31,000 per case.
The balance of the 50,000 lawsuits concern hip plants and artificial hip systems. These hip replacement parts have resulted in severe injuries when they degenerate in the joint. Patients have required repeat surgeries to remove the faulty parts and then implant new hip parts. Some patients have experienced long term or permanent side effects. Together, these faulty medical devices could result in nearly $2 billion in settlement costs.
Overall, the cost of litigation related to talcum powder cancer, uncontrollable bleeding from Xarelto, and problems with various hip parts and systems could cost the global giant around $6 billion. According to Forbes, J&J currently has $14 billion cash-in-hand. While $6 billion in damages may seem significant, it is unlikely to dampen J&J's outlooks. Litigation is merely the cost of doing business, and these experiences are unlikely to change J&J's approach to consumer safety in the future.