Something to Talc About

by Christina Feller | March 24th, 2016


Every day we hear news of another drug or device causing injuries and often women are the victims. Women are more likely to use prescription drug medications than men by a large margin, 53.5 percent to 43.2 percent, and prescription drug use is rising steadily.[1] Drug companies are targeting women in every natural phase of their lives with misleading advertisements and manufactured diseases. Frequently the products they advertise are later proven to be ineffective, unnecessary, and sometimes deadly.

Without touching on any stereotypes, it is safe to say that women differ from men anatomically and physiologically. Drugs and medical devices respond differently in women and men, yet historically, women have been underrepresented in drug and medical device trials. The FDA actually recommended excluding women of child bearing age from studies fearing fetal harm. In the 1990s, the FDA changed course and began advocating the inclusion of women in clinical studies and in 2011 submitted draft guidance for the evaluation of sex differences in medical device clinical studies.[2] These guidelines are a step in the right direction, but progress has been slow and more transparency is needed.

Talcum powder is a great example of product marketing that played on female insecurities and resulted in unnecessary harm. Talcum powder has been used cosmetically for decades and was advertised as a safe product to mask genital odor with slogans like “a sprinkle a day keeps the odor away” and “your body perspires in more places than just under your arms.” It seems like a harmless product, often used on babies, so it must be safe, right?  Wrong.  Studies have shown that when used in the perineal area, particles travel up through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes, into the ovaries, where they settle and can cause ovarian cancer, one of the deadliest cancers that affect the female reproductive system.[3]

For decades, the dangers of talcum powder were reported, but no action was taken. The first report linking talcum powder to ovarian cancer came as early as 1971, and numerous studies and publications followed showing the same causal link. In 2003, the journal Anticancer Research published a review of the previous studies which indicated a 33 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who used talcum powder regularly. According to a recent Harvard study, that number could be as high as 42 percent. Two Citizen Petitions have been submitted to the FDA requesting a warning of the risk of developing ovarian cancer, but both were denied. The FDA still has not ruled on whether talc is toxic or safe and the product continues to be unregulated by the federal government.[4]

The first talcum powder case was tried against Johnson & Johnson in October 2013 in South Dakota. The plaintiff used talcum powder regularly for over 30 years and developed ovarian cancer. Talcum powder particles were found in her cancerous tissue.  The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn the plaintiff of the risks of developing ovarian cancer after using their product. One of the doctors testifying in this case stated talcum powder could be responsible for over 10,000 ovarian cancer cases per year. The Mississippi Attorney General’s office has also launched an investigation and subpoenaed information on Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder promotions.

In February 2016, a jury awarded a woman’s family $72 million dollars for her injuries caused by Johnson & Johnson. This verdict included $62 million dollars in punitive damages, showing just how upset the jury became after hearing evidence regarding Johnson & Johnson’s efforts to hide the connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

At Ferrer, Poirot, Wansbrough, Feller, Daniel, Abney & Linville, we are committed to helping victims of harmful products and devices. Russ Abney, a partner with our firm, was heavily involved in developing and deposing experts for the talcum powder trial that resulted in the recent $72 million dollar verdict. It is our hope that increased awareness, more involvement from the FDA and verdicts like the most recent talcum powder award will encourage large corporations to value human life more than big profits. If you or a loved one suffered from talcum powder side effects and are interested in a talcum powder lawsuit, please call our office at 1-800-521-4492 to speak with our experienced staff who can connect you to a talcum powder attorney.


[1] Gu, Q., Dillon, C. and Burt, V. 2010.  “Prescription Drug Use Continues to Increase: U.S. Prescription Drug Data for 2007-2008.”   NCHS Data Brief, no 42.  Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.  September 2010.  Web. 19 February 2014.

[2] Diaz, Robyn and Steuer, Katherine.  Reforming Women’s Health Research: A Renewed Focus on Sex Differences in Clinical Trials.”  ABA Health Esource.  Vol. 8 Num. 7.  19 March 2012.  Web. 19 February 2014.

[3] U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. “United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2010 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report.” Atlanta (GA): Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute.   2013.  Web. 20 February 2014.

[4]  Epstein, Samuel. “Talcum Powder: The Hidden Dangers.”  The Huffington Post.  21 September 2009.  Web. 21 February 2014.