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J&J targeted overweight women for talc sales, jury hears

  • Legal Development 10 September 2021 10 September 2021
  • Americas

Pharmacologist Dr. Laura Plunkett provided marketing plans to show Johnson & Johnson discussing methods to improve talcum powder sales by targeting consumers of Weight Watchers and Lane Bryant.

Pharmacologist Dr. Laura Plunkett served as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in an ongoing trial for three women who allege they developed ovarian cancer through use of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder. In addition to her testimony, a marketing plan from July 2004 was provided to show how Johnson & Johnson personnel discussed methods to improve talcum powder sales. Dr. Plunkett also shared marketing documents from 2008 and 2010, which included the idea of delivering 100,000 powder samples to customers of Lane Bryant, a plus-size clothing store for women, in their orders, along with placements in Weight Watchers Magazine, and Everyday with Rachael Ray.

Dr. Plunkett also observed that talc escapes the scrutiny of risk-benefit analysis it would receive if it were a drug, because it is marketed as a cosmetic product. Talc has no benefit to counterbalance the risks it poses, she said. The trial opened in early September, with jurors hearing in opening arguments that alleges Johnson & Johnson tolerated "death and destruction" to maintain the "baby company" halo conferred by its flagship product. This is the first multi-plaintiff Missouri talc trial since the U.S. Supreme Court refused this year to review the practice of multi-plaintiff trials.

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