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August 28, 2017

Jury sends a message with record $417 million talc verdict ahead of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

by: Carmen S. Scott

Last week, a Los Angeles jury awarded a California woman a record $417 million verdict after hearing her story and how decades of using Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based baby powder tragically caused her to develop an aggressive form of ovarian cancer that doctors believe will one day claim her life. (Motley Rice, which was not involved in this case, congratulates the trial team.) The latest in a string of talc cases faced by J&J, Monday’s verdict topped the combined total of three previous plaintiffs’ awards handed down in St. Louis by more than $100 million, sending an undeniable message that the jury, as representatives of the public, strongly believed that the company failed, egregiously, to do the right thing in warning women of the dangers associated with perineal talc use. 

J&J is expected to appeal the jury’s decision. But even so, the plaintiff in this case, a 63-year-old grandmother named Eva Echeverria, accomplished a goal that can’t be taken away from her. For Ms. Echeverria this wasn’t about money, or even revenge, according to reports about her case. Going to trial was about something far more important – helping other victims, and sharing her story so that other women will learn from her misfortune and make knowledgeable choices about how best to protect their bodies. A choice she believes J&J denied her by failing to warn that its talc products could potentially cause ovarian cancer.

Ms. Echeverria began using J&J’s baby powder for feminine hygiene when she was 11. Despite being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, reports stated that she did not know at the time about the connection between talc and ovarian cancer and she continued to use the product on a daily basis until 2016. She stopped using talc only after she learned from news reports of a talc verdict in another lawsuit against J&J.

Ms. Echeverria’s story shows just how important raising awareness on this issue, and ovarian cancer in general, is, particularly given the lack of a warning label that ideally would inform women up front of the risks. It’s fitting that a verdict in her case came days ahead of September which is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Like many other forms of cancer, chances of survival drastically increase when ovarian cancer is diagnosed early.

Ovarian cancer symptoms are notoriously difficult to recognize as they are often mistaken for other common ailments. Unfortunately, there is no adequate screening test for ovarian cancer, and it is most often caught in the later, more aggressive stages. Additionally, one common misconception is that a pap smear will detect ovarian cancer when in fact it does not.

However, doctors advise it is imperative that women see their doctors when symptoms related to ovarian cancer are persistent and do not resolve with normal intervention such as a change of diet, exercise, rest or other treatments.

Ovarian cancer symptoms may include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic and abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating
  • Urinary urgency or frequency
  • Nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation or diarrhea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Backaches
  • Weight gain   

An estimated 22,280 women are expected to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, with rates highest among women aged 55 to 64. Unfortunately, only roughly 20 percent of new cases are diagnosed during the early stages each year, the organization states.

Through awareness, we can educate about ovarian cancer and the early symptoms to help save lives.

Visit the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition for ways that you can get involved.

Read previous, related blog posts:

Rocking Teal: United in the Fight Against Ovarian Cancer

Targeted by Talc Marketing for Years, Studies Show Black Women Have a Higher Risk of Developing Ovarian Cancer

What’s talc got to do with cancer?