Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer - Seeker's Thoughts

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Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder and Ovarian Cancer

Introduction: - Controversy around Johnson’s and Johnson’s company
In 2016, Johnson & Johnson, a leading multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical, and consumer packaged goods manufacturer, was faced with about 1,200 lawsuits related to its talcum powder products –Johnson’s Baby powder and Shower-to-Shower Body Powder.
Johnson’s Baby powder has been an iconic brand. 
https://www.rd.com/health/conditions/ovarian-cancer-symptoms/

J&J had been promoting to adults, particularly women for a long time for women hygine,  talcum powder when used for feminine hygiene had been linked to ovarian cancer. The lawsuits alleged that J&J had known about this association but had failed to inform its customers about it.
Alex Gorsky chairman & CEO of J&J had also been toeing the management’s line that the criticism of its talcum powder was inconsistent with a hundred year of experience with the product. Analysts were concerned whether J&J, which had faced a number of products-related crises, would be able to maintain its reputation as a trusted family company in a climate of mounting lawsuits.

History background
In 1894, the company launched maternity kits to make childbirth safer for mothers and babies. The same year of the launch of Johnson’s baby powder, which went on to become the foundation for the company’s heritage Baby business. In 1898, the company pioneered the mass production of dental floss made from leftover suture silk so as to make it affordable.

What action had US court taken over the controversy?
A US court ordered the company to pay punitive damages worth 4.6 billion to 22 women. The 124-years- old brand, which has been grappling with this issue since 2011 has seen a 20 percent dip in sale in the US. In March this year, J&J re-launched its entire baby products range. The new range is known to have eliminated dyes and suphates and has replaced mineral oils with coconut oils.

How the company has in trouble in India?
In 2013, the food and drug administration had closed down the J&J plant in Mumbai when they found 15 batches of Johnson &Johnson baby powder were sterilized by ethylene oxide, which is a carcinogenic and irritants. One synonymous with baby care, pediatrician no longer vouches for the brand.

What does talcum powder contain?
It is made from talc, which is a mineral made up mainly of magnesium silicon and oxygen. It absorbs moisture well; as a result, it keeps skin dry and prevents rashes. J&J claims there is nothing wrong with its product. But the wisely reported case has led people, especially parents of infants, worried. The product is widely used in India for babies who wear diapers concerns had prompted doctors in the US many years ago to advise against the use of talcum powder when diapering babies.

What exactly cause of cancer?
Though some studies have suggested a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, scientist are yet to reach to a definite answer but findings have been mixed. Some talc, in its natural form, contains asbestos, and the American cancer society says it is important to distinguish between talc that contains asbestos, and talc that is asbestos-free, adding that “talc that has asbestos is generally accepted as being able to cause cancer if it is inhaled”. The international agency for research on cancer, which is a part of World Health Organization, classifies talc that contain asbestos as “carcinogenic to humans”, and says that perinea (genital) use of talc-based body powder could be “possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Studies have looked at a possible link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, and the findings have been mixed. Some studies have suggested that talcum powder might cause cancer in the ovaries if the powder particles, applied to the genital area or on sanitary napkins, diaphragms, or condom, were to travel through the fallopian tubes to the ovary, says the American cancer society.
No increased risk of lung cancer has been, however, reported with the use of cosmetic talcum powder. Talc use has also not been strongly linked to other cancers, said the American cancer society. In sum, while there is no clear answer yet on a talc-cancer link, those with concerns may avoid them or limit their use, experts say. An alternative is to use cornstarch-based cosmetic products.

What does J&J have to say?
This is not the first time the baby products major have landed in a controversy ovary safety issues.
In October 2013, US jury found that use of J&J’s body powder was a factor in plaintiff Deane berg developing ovarian cancer. It did not, however, award damages in that case. Some years earlier, the campaign for safe cosmetics, a non-profit US watchdog group, had alleged after a round of laboratory tests that J&J baby shampoo contained the carcinogen formaldehyde, forcing the company to pledge to eliminate toxic chemicals from all its baby products.

Conclusion
It really depends on individuals and couples with babies, and the advice their doctors give them. For those who feel the need to use talcum powder, many experts seem to believe it is okay as long as the baby does not breathe it in. other commonsense tips that pediatricians have include not sprinkling or using a puff  to apply the powder. Which might throw particles in the air- and to rather use hands to dab the baby; not to apply the powder on the face; and to apply the powder only on dry in skin. The issue needs attentions and awareness, that in some cases even if there were no reports of ovarian cancers, but it can not be neglected either that in some cases some got ovarian cancer due to J&J products.