A US Court has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million to the family of a 62-year old woman who died of ovarian cancer after years of using its talcum powder.
A jury in Missouri ruled that J&J should pay $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages, marking the first time cash has been awarded over the claims.
The civil suit is the first of more than 1,000 cases nationally which argue that the healthcare giant failed to warn consumers of the cancer risk posed by its talc-based products.
In a conference call with journalists, lawyer Jere Beasley claimed J&J "knew as far back as the 1980s of the risk," and yet resorted to "lying to the public, lying to the regulatory agencies,” Reuters reported.
Company spokesperson Carol Goodrich insisted that the firm “believes the safety of cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence”.
However, according to the Associated Press, an internal memo from September 1997 showed a J&J medical consultant suggesting that "anybody who denies (the) risks" between "hygenic" talc use and ovarian cancer will be publicly perceived in the same light as those who denied a link between smoking cigarettes and cancer: "denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary”.
J&J has long been pressured by health groups to remove possibly harmful ingredients in its products, including 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, which are both thought to be carcinogenic in humans. The healthcare giant agreed to remove these from all products by 2015.