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California court awards $417 million in talcum powder lawsuit

[JURIST] The Los Angeles Superior Court [official website] issued a verdict on Monday in favor of a consumer who allegedly developed ovarian cancer after using a drug manufacturer's talc-based products. Defendant Johnson and Johnson [corporate website] currently faces [Reuters report] about 4,800 claims regarding the company's failure to warn consumers of cancer risks linked to such products. In the current case, the plaintiff was awarded $417 million in damages, which is the largest verdict awarded in the matter thus far. According to the plaintiff, the drug manufacturer has failed to acknowledge studies linking ovarian cancer to genital talc use. Johnson and Johnson, however, has stated that studies and federal agencies have not found their talc-based products to be carcinogenic. The manufacturer has expressed its intention to appeal the verdict and support the safety of its products.

Johnson and Johnson is currently amongst several manufacturers involved in a national opioid crisis that has risen to an epidemic level in recent years. In June, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against three of the largest opioid manufacturers, Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and units of Endo International Plc., accusing them of violating consumer protection laws by using deception to hide the addicting and life-threatening nature of their products. Also in June, a bipartisan group of state attorneys general from Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Texas announcedjoint investigations [JURIST report] into the marketing and sales practices of the manufacturers of opioid painkillers. In March President Donald Trump signed an executive order [JURIST report] establishing a task force to combat the opioid crisis. This would not be the first time that opioid drug manufacturers have found themselves in trouble with the law. In July 2007 the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia sentenced [NYT report] three former executives of the Purdue Frederick Company, manufacturer of painkiller OxyContin [FDA materials], to three years of probation and 400 hours of community service in drug treatment programs. The three executives, including former president Michael Friedman, former chief in-house counsel Howard Udell, and former medical director Paul Goldenheim, all pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in May 2007 to a misdemeanor offense of misbranding a drug. Prosecutors had alleged that the company and executives were aware in 1995 that doctors were concerned about the drug's high addiction risk, but its sales representatives continued to misrepresent OxyContin's effects to physicians. Purdue Frederick agreed to pay $634.5 million in fines for its role in misleading the public.

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