While Johnson & Johnson have made news today for the $845 million fine over their involvement in the American opioid crisis, their lawyers are working hard to dispute a link between their talcum powder and asbestos exposure.
During the latest trial, lawyers representing the pharma giant presented scientific literature that they believe indicates only a “weak link” between peritoneal mesothelioma and asbestos exposure.
This new piece of literature directly challenges the testimony of the pathologist John Maddox and the four plaintiffs diagnosed with this type of cancer, who were subject to exposure to the product when they were babies, which is alleged to have caused their terminal cancer.
According to Lawyers + Settlements: ‘malignant mesothelioma is a tumour of the lining of the lung and chest cavity (pleura) or lining(s) of the abdomen (peritoneum) that is typically related to exposure to mineral fibres such as asbestos.
‘Peritoneal Mesothelioma is cancer of the lining of the abdominal cavity caused by ingesting asbestos fibres. Treatment typically involves surgery and chemotherapy, but the prognosis is poor—the average life expectancy is one year. Some patients who undergo a certain kind of chemo treatment, however, have a 50 per cent chance of living for five years, according to the Cancer Society.
‘This type of mesothelioma is more common in men who were exposed to asbestos because of the higher male occupational exposure to asbestos, a fact that J&J used in its defence.’
J&J attorney Diane Sullivan explained that studies have shown that when peritoneal mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, it comes from intensive and repeated exposure to the product.
Ms Sullivan also cited an article that indicated that “the majority of pleural mesotheliomas occur in individuals occupationally exposed to asbestos, whereas peritoneal mesothelioma is rarely associated with asbestos exposure… In approximate terms, some 60% to 90% of mesotheliomas in US women (pleural and peritoneal sites, respectively), and a substantial proportion of peritoneal mesotheliomas in men are likely unrelated to asbestos.”
Plaintiff’s attorney Chris Panatier revealed to the nine-member jury that two authors behind the articles cited by Ms Sullivan have been retained as experts by J&J.