A new study from the National Institutes of Health has found a “consistent association” between the use of talcum powder in the genital area and an increased risk of ovarian cancer. The findings may benefit the thousands of people suing Johnson & Johnson, who claim the company’s Johnson’s Baby Powder and other talc products led to their ovarian cancer.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, were based on an analysis of data from more than 50,000 women who participated in the Sister Study. They indicate a potential link between frequent or prolonged use of talcum powder and an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Despite worries about people not accurately remembering things and mistakes in the information collected, the study considered these issues and still discovered a strong connection in a positive direction.

What Does Study Mean for Talcum Powder Litigation?

The study provides crucial evidence for the ongoing lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson (J&J). More than 50,000 lawsuits — in federal and state courts — claim J&J’s talc-based Baby Powder caused ovarian cancer. The company has consistently denied these claims, asserting that its products are safe and asbestos-free.

The findings from this study could significantly bolster the plaintiffs’ cases by providing scientific support for their claims.

Leigh O’Dell, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs’ steering committee, stated that the study “completely affirms and confirms the position taken by plaintiffs’ experts.” The research may add significant weight to the arguments presented by those suing J&J, potentially swaying the outcomes of their cases.

Erik Haas, J&J’s worldwide vice president of litigation, says that the study doesn’t prove that talcum powder causes cancer or point to a specific cancer-causing substance. The study’s results will likely be a key topic in court discussions about talcum powder safety and settlement talks.

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Study’s Impact on $6.48 Billion Settlement

In May 2024, Johnson & Johnson offered to pay $6.48 billion to settle most of the lawsuits related to the company’s talcum powder products and alleged links to ovarian cancer. To make this happen, they want to move the cases to bankruptcy court, but they need approval from 75% of the people suing them.

This is not the first time J&J has tried to do this, but it could resolve almost all pending claims against Johnson & Johnson if it works this time. However, this new study might alter the plaintiffs’ opinions about accepting the settlement because it provides additional evidence supporting their claims that talcum powder use caused their ovarian cancers.

However, J&J’s settlement wouldn’t cover the smaller number of lawsuits claiming that asbestos in talcum powder caused mesothelioma or other cancers.

History of Talcum Powder Lawsuits

Legal battles against J&J regarding its talc-based products go back to 1999.

The first case involved a woman who claimed that using J&J’s baby powder led to her developing a rare cancer called mesothelioma, often associated with asbestos exposure. In 2009, another lawsuit alleged that the talc-based products caused ovarian cancer.

Since then, more than 150,000 women have made similar claims, resulting in lawsuits, settlements and a significant decrease in J&J’s baby powder sales.

In response to this and safety concerns, J&J stopped selling talc-based baby powder in North America in 2020 and globally in 2022. Despite the company’s insistence on product safety, these lawsuits have challenged J&J’s reputation and financial standing.