This week, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been in the spotlight due to two significant legal developments. In one case, the company was ordered to pay $18.8 million in a talc lawsuit over cancer claims. In a separate but unrelated matter, J&J filed a lawsuit against the Biden Administration challenging the government’s new drug price negotiation authority.
The talc lawsuit involved a California man named Emory Hernandez Valadez, who claimed that he developed cancer from using J&J’s baby powder over an extended period. The mineral talc, known for its moisture-absorbing and friction-reducing properties, is used in various consumer products, including baby powder and cosmetics. However, talc use has been a subject of controversy, with numerous lawsuits alleging that J&J’s talc-based products contain cancer-causing asbestos.
In April, J&J filed for bankruptcy through a subsidiary, LTL Management, proposing to settle over 38,000 lawsuits for $8.9 billion. However, most litigation was put on hold during the bankruptcy proceedings. Hernandez’s trial proceeded due to his terminal condition and the rarity of his form of mesothelioma, setting it apart from the majority of cases against J&J.
The jury ruled in favor of Hernandez, awarding damages for medical bills and strife. However, they did not grant punitive damages against J&J. Despite the verdict, the company plans to appeal, maintaining that its products are safe and do not cause cancer, citing decades of independent scientific evaluations.
In a separate legal move, J&J joined Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb in challenging the controversial provision of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA, signed into law in August 2022, aims to address inflation, lower the deficit, and reduce carbon emissions. It includes provisions allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. J&J’s lawsuit against the Biden Administration argues that the IRA’s Medicare price negotiations violate the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, coercing the company into making false and misleading statements about fair pricing.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department has vowed to defend the President’s drug price negotiation law, asserting that it is already helping to lower healthcare costs for seniors and people with disabilities.
Both the talc lawsuit verdict and the challenge to the IRA demonstrate the complexities and legal challenges faced by Johnson & Johnson. As the legal battles continue, the company remains steadfast in its stance that its products are safe and that it will vigorously defend its position in court.