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J&J Presents Article in Asbestos Talc Trial Indicating Weak Link to Peritoneal Mesothelioma

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Johnson & Johnson in the latest asbestos talc trial provides scientific evidence that shows a weak link between asbestos and plaintiffs’ peritoneal mesothelioma, but that evidence may be biased as Plaintiffs’ Lawyers Show Article Funded by J&J

New Brunswick, NJJohnson & Johnson presented scientific literature during the latest asbestos talc trial on August 9 indicating a “weak link” between peritoneal mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, challenging testimony of pathologist John Maddox and the four plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with this form of cancer. All four were exposed to asbestos in J&J baby powder when they were babies, which allegedly caused their terminal cancer. Babies are even more susceptible to the risks of asbestos exposure because their cells are still developing and because they breathe faster, increasing the amount of asbestos they might breathe in, plaintiff’s attorney Moshe Maimon told the jury.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a tumor 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 fibers such as asbestos. Peritoneal Mesothelioma is cancer of the lining of the abdominal cavity caused by ingesting asbestos fibers. Treatment typically involves surgery and chemotherapy, but prognosis is poor—the average life expectancy is one year. Some patients who undergo a certain kind of chemo treatment, however, have a 50 percent chance of living for five years, according to the Cancer Society.

This kind of cancer accounts for less than 20 percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses and research is minimal. Because peritoneal mesothelioma is uncommon, however, it is often misdiagnosed with other illnesses, particularly when the patient wasn’t exposed to asbestos in the workplace. 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 defense. J&J attorney Diane Sullivan noted that studies have shown that when peritoneal mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, it is from severe, repeated exposure — such as insulation workers who were hacking apart pure sheets of asbestos on a daily basis.

Sullivan also told that court that none of the plaintiffs’ doctors would be testifying, but Judge Viscomi countered and said it was improper to suggest that the plaintiffs' treating physicians had determined that their cancers were not related to their use of talcum powder because the medical records were silent on that issue, according to court documents.

Scientific Articles Biased

Along with J&J’s attorneys showing a weak link with asbestos and peritoneal mesothelioma, J&J attorney Diane Sullivan cited one recent article saying, “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.” But pathologist Maddox argued that other papers talking about peritoneal mesotheliomas that have somewhat different versions of the frequency of asbestos exposure. And there is the misdiagnosis aspect.

Plaintiff’s attorney Chris Panatier told the nine-member jury that two authors behind those articles have been retained as experts by J&J.

Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Plaintiff Douglas Barden told the jury how his mother used J&J baby powder on him after he was born in 1949, and he continued using it until he was an adult. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2016 and underwent 10 hours of surgery followed by chemotherapy. An MRI scan showed the tumors had stopped growing, and Barden believed he was in remission, but in January 2018 Barden testified that another MRI scan “lit up like a Christmas tree”. The tumors had returned with a vengeance. This type of cancer is terminal.

The cases, filed in March 2017, are Barden et al. v. Brenntag North America et al., case number L-1809-17; Etheridge et al. v. Brenntag North America et al., case number L-932-17; McNeill-George v. Brenntag North America et al., case number L-7049-16; and Ronning et al. v. Brenntag North America et al., case number L-6040-17, in the Superior Court of the State of New Jersey, County of Middlesex. J&J is still facing 15,500 talc cases, according to its most recent quarterly filing with the US. Securities and Exchange Commission.


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