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The House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform recently held a hearing examining health risks related to the use of talcum powder products containing asbestos, as well as the detection methods used to keep the public safe. The hearing comes on the heels of news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced had detected asbestos in one lot of pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and that the company would voluntarily recall 33,000 bottles of the product.

Johnson & Johnson currently faces an estimated 15,000 talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits across the country brought by plaintiffs claiming their serious medical conditions, including various forms of cancer, were caused by decades of using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder. Many of those lawsuits allege the plaintiffs developed mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer directly linked with exposure to microscopic asbestos fibers.

While talc itself does not contain asbestos, the two are both naturally occurring minerals which can often be found side by side one another, creating the possibility of cross contamination if precautions are not taken to protect innocent consumers. Despite federal laws requiring talc products to be asbestos-free, strong evidence exists that Johnson & Johnson continued to produce talc-based products that tested positive for asbestos.

When patients are diagnosed with a debilitating disease such as cancer, their focus often immediately shifts towards whether or not they will require surgery to treat the disease and what, if any, are the least invasive and most effective treatment options. Some forms of cancer can be treated without surgery, using radiation or chemotherapy, if caught in the early stages, while others leave patients with limited treatment options that may leave surgery as the only course of action.

A recent European study compared surgical treatments in patients diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer affecting the thin lining of tissue surrounding the lungs. The researchers compared data of two types of treatments performed from 1999 through 2018, pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) and extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) to see if patients fared better with one treatment over the other in terms of survival.

Mesothelioma has a particularly long latency period, which is the time between exposure to a carcinogen and when a diagnosis is actually made. The disease’s latency period can be anywhere from 20 years to 50 years, which can leave patients with especially limited treatment options and make surgery the only treatment available to prolong the individual’s lifespan.

A federal judge in San Francisco recently allowed a lawsuit to continue against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleging the agency fails to properly track how much deadly asbestos is imported, manufactured, and otherwise used in products in the United States. Several advocacy groups filed the asbestos lawsuit against the EPA in February 2019, challenging the agencies decision to allow certain exemptions to reporting rules for asbestos products, and the agency’s decision to deny a petition to impose stricter reporting requirements on companies dealing in asbestos.

“EPA has greatly overstated its knowledge of asbestos use and exposure in the United States,” the advocacy groups, now plaintiffs, wrote in a letter to the EPA back in January 2019 in which they urged the agency to reconsider its decision. “This decision gives us the green light to press ahead with our suit to hold EPA accountable for refusing to require simple and straightforward reporting by the asbestos industry,” said Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, one of the plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit against the EPA.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the American Public Health Association, the Center for Environmental Health, the Environmental Working Group, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. A spokesperson for the Environmental Working Group released a statement saying “EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s efforts to keep the public in the dark about where and how asbestos is being used in this country is antithetical to what the American people should expect from the head of the EPA.”

A New Jersey Superior Court judge recently denied a motion by the defendant in a talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuit which sought to set aide a multimillion dollar verdict handed down by a state jury to a group of plaintiffs who claimed they developed serious forms of cancer due to asbestos fibers in talc-based products produced by the defendant. That lawsuit claimed pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson knowingly sold asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products for years, without any warnings to consumers about the known risks of asbestos exposure.

In September 2019, a Middlesex County, New Jersey jury handed down a $37.3 million verdict to four plaintiffs who claimed they developed mesothelioma cancer as a result of using talc-based products, such as Baby Powder and Shower to Shower, produced by Johnson & Johnson. That trial took place in the city of Brunswick, New Jersey, where Johnson & Johnson’s corporate headquarters is located. The company faces thousands of other such lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country.

Johnson & Johnson’s post-trial motion, which the judge recently denied, had asked the judge to set aside the trial court’s verdict on a multitude of legal grounds. However, that motion was denied by the judge on the grounds that the proceedings in the case had not yet concluded, as the jury’s $37.3 million award only included damages for lost wages, medical bills, other monetary damages, and pain and suffering. The case is set to enter a new phase relatively soon, as the jury will decide what, if any, punitive damages Johnson & Johnson will be required to pay the victims.

A recent report by Reuters details troubling links between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson concerning efforts by safety advocates to conduct testing and provide warning labels to consumers about the potential risks of asbestos contamination in talcum powder products. The investigation details how, over decades, the FDA often relied upon testing or otherwise deferred to individuals linked to Johnson & Johnson when making determinations about the safety of the company’s talc-based products.

The special report shows that since the 1970s, federal regulators have deferred to Johnson & Johnson when independent scientists and researchers brought up concerns that talcum powder products may be contaminated with carcinogenic asbestos. When a line of cosmetics products tested positive for asbestos back in March 2019, the FDA noted “We are dependent on manufacturers to take steps to ensure the safety of their products.” Most recently, Johnson & Johnson conducted a voluntary recall of its iconic Baby Powder after the FDA found that the product tested positive for asbestos.

In chronicling the FDA’s deference to Johnson & Johnson, the report shows that federal regulators were concerned about asbestos fibers in talcum powder as far back as the 1970s, but quickly ended inquiries after assurances from companies using talc that their products were safe. Eventually, the role of monitoring and testing talc-based products fell to the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association after convincing the FDA that manufacturers were best suited to conduct oversight.

Attorneys representing plaintiffs in thousands of talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits recently asked a federal judge to allow additional supplementation in evidentiary proceedings following the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) testing of talcum powder products. The judge’s ruling in these key evidentiary proceedings are expected to have a tremendous impact on how the thousands of cases in federal court against pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson will play out over the coming months and years.

In October 2019, the FDA announced that samples taken from certain lots of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder tested positive for trace amounts of deadly asbestos fibers, prompting the company to issue a voluntary recall of an estimated 33,000 bottles of its iconic product. In the wake of those positive asbestos tests, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the FDA to obtain documents related to the lab tests, and asked Johnson & Johnson to provide discovery regarding the same materials.

Attorneys for the asbestos cancer victims have asked the New Jersey federal judge presiding over the key evidentiary hearings to allow the plaintiffs to include the additional information gathered in their legal briefs for the proceeding. Those proceedings, known as Daubert hearings, will decide which of the 39 expert witnesses named by both sides will be allowed to be presented to potential juries in the estimated 12,400 cases on the docket in federal courts across the country.

An Idaho jury recently awarded a 71-year-old Idaho woman $43.3 million verdict in a talcum powder mesothelioma cancer lawsuit alleging the defendant caused her condition by knowingly marketing its carcinogenic talc-based products. The lawsuit named New Jersey-based  pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson as the defendant, asserting that the company knew for decades about the risk of asbestos in its Baby Powder and Shower to Shower would post to consumers but provided no warning.

The Los Angeles jury deliberated for six days before reaching its verdict, agreeing with the plaintiff that her mesothelioma cancer was caused by talc-based products manufactured and sold by Johnson & Johnson. The verdict was a repudiation of positions taken by Johnson & Johnson and its attorneys which asserted that the victim’s cancer was not caused by asbestos exposure in talc, but rather due to atmospheric exposure while living in an industrial area of Los Angeles decades earlier.

The jury’s award included $1.2 million in economic damages which includes past and future medical expenses, $6.5 million for past noneconomic damages, $20 million for the plaintiff’s husband and $12.6 million for future noneconomic damages. Jurors were presented evidence that the victim’s cancer tissue contained both anthophyllite and tremolite asbestos, which are two forms of the mineral that have been confirmed to be in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder as well as their Shower to Shower product.

The news continues to get worse for pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson this month after an analysis by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that one lot of Baby Powder produced in 2018 was contaminated with asbestos fibers, prompting a recall of 33,000 bottles of the product. The analysis that discovered the asbestos in Baby Powder was conducted on behalf of the FDA by an independent laboratory run by a scientist who Johnson & Johnson has hired as an expert witness in talcum powder cancer lawsuits against the company.

That paid witness is none other than Andreas Saldivar, laboratory director of AMA Analytical Services Inc, who has served as a litigation expert on several occasions for Johnson & Johnson since 2017 in cases brought by plaintiffs who claimed they developed various forms of cancer after years of using the company’s talc-based products. In May 2018, Saldivar testified in a deposition on behalf of Johnson & Johnson and stated that testing he performed on behalf of the FDA back in 2010 showed no evidence that Baby Powder contained asbestos fibers.

In 2019, Saldivar’s lab again began testing talcum powder on behalf of the FDA and in September it tested Baby Powder samples sent to it by federal safety regulators. The testing now presents a serious challenge to Johnson & Johnson of how to discredit a single positive test for asbestos while still maintaining the integrity of one of its expert witnesses. It remains unclear how this news will affect Johnson & Johnson’s litigation efforts moving forward, including whether the company will be more likely to settle the thousands of cases pending in state and federal courts.

A new scientific report by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggests a strong and credible link between the use of asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products and developing malignant mesothelioma. The case study was published in the organization’s Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, looking into the cases of 33 patients confirmed to have malignant mesothelioma and whose only known exposure to asbestos may have come from using tainted talcum powder in cosmetic products.

All of the patients in the study are involved in talcum powder cancer lawsuits against cosmetics companies. The authors went into greater detail on the conditions of six patients who underwent tissue analysis showing asbestos fibers consistent with those that would be found in contaminated talcum powder. The study’s authors pointed out that the asbestos fibers discovered were not consistent with the types of asbestos fibers which would be found in industrial settings, such as insulation or other building materials.

The report is just the latest in a series of bad news for Johnson & Johnson, which currently faces an estimated 14,000 talcum powder cancer lawsuits accusing the company of knowingly manufacturing and marketing dangerous talc-based products. Thus far, juries in state and federal courts have awarded plaintiffs over $5 billion in combined compensation in trials against Johnson & Johnson, which continues to litigate cases and deny responsibility for any wrongdoing.

With the signature of Governor Gavin Newsom, California recently passed a law aimed at protecting mesothelioma cancer victims during the fact-gathering stage of an asbestos cancer lawsuit. The bill, SB 645, would limit the number of hours defendants would be able to question plaintiffs under oath in cases where plaintiffs can demonstrate to the courts that they have less than six months to live.

SB 645 places a seven-hour limitation on defendants’ deposition examination (where attorneys question witnesses under oath) in cases in which a licensed physician provides the court with a written declaration stating that the plaintiff has mesothelioma and there is substantial doubt whether he or she will live longer than six months. In cases in which there are more than 10 defendants named in the lawsuit, defendants may request an additional three hours of deposition testimony, and an additional seven hours of testimony if more than 20 defendants are involved in the lawsuit.

The law allows the courts to grant those time extensions in cases in which such an extension is in the interest of fairness, and the health of the plaintiff would not be endangered by the additional testimony time. The law’s passage with the governor’s signature is welcome news for mesothelioma cancer victims who are often subjected to hours and hours of intense questioning by defense attorneys, all while the plaintiff’s health is in decline while batting the serious form of cancer.

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