In 2013 and 2014, Johnson & Johnson was the subject of multiple lawsuits in the United States in which it was claimed that the company was responsible for a number of women developing ovarian cancer through its high-selling talcum powder products. It was alleged that the talc – a key ingredient in Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower – was most likely to be harmful if used as a feminine hygiene product over a long period of time. Johnson & Johnson was accused of failing to warn consumers of the association between talc and ovarian cancer in its products.

Following the lawsuits, detailed investigations into talcum powder were carried out and the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified talc used on the genital area as a possible carcinogen. There have however been mixed results from other studies assessing the link between the two.

In the first instance, Johnson & Johnson lost three trials in the US, which resulted in multi-million dollar compensation awards. The pharmaceutical giant is appealing the cases, but there are thought to be a further 2000 cases pending in various courts across the US.

The action has helped to raise awareness of the potential links between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, and as a result 20 women in Ireland, who believe long-term use of talc products contributed to their ovarian cancer, are now preparing to bring cases against Johnson & Johnson in 2017. Johnson & Johnson is the market leader for talc products in Ireland and throughout Europe.

Charlene McAuliffe, a solicitor in the personal injury team at Penningtons Manches LLP, said: “Johnson & Johnson is a household name and a trusted brand amongst families. These further claims from women in Ireland will come as worrying news to those who regularly use talc products, particularly in the UK given its close proximity. Their concerns will not be helped by the fact that there is conflicting scientific opinion regarding talc, its safety and any risks associated with prolonged use. The outcomes of the US cases are pivotal to the future of the brand and to whether there will be further cases brought against Johnson & Johnson on an international level.