Montreal

Quebec court authorizes class action lawsuit alleging link between talc powder and cancer

A class action lawsuit against two pharmaceutical giants that alleges the regular use of talc powder is linked to a higher risk of ovarian cancer has been authorized to proceed in Quebec.

Lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal action against Johnson & Johnson

The lead plaintiff is a Quebec woman who says she developed cancer in 2012 after having used talc-based products for decades. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

A class action lawsuit against two pharmaceutical giants that alleges the regular use of talc powder is linked to a higher risk of ovarian cancer has been authorized to proceed in Quebec.

According to court documents released Wednesday, the lawsuit is being filed on behalf of Quebecers who have used Johnson & Johnson baby powder or Valeant's product entitled Shower to Shower in their genital area and were later diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

The lead plaintiff is a Quebec woman who says she developed cancer in 2012 after having used talc-based products from 1962 until 2013.

Rosemary Kramar alleges in court documents that use of the powder "probably led to her developing ovarian cancer" and says she would not have used the products had she known a possible risk existed.

A lawyer for the firm representing the plaintiffs told The Canadian Press that studies going back decades show the link between the repeated use of talc products and an increased cancer risk.

Tony Merchant said the company knew women were using their products for personal hygiene reasons and should have either issued "explicit warnings" or removed them from the market.

"The issue becomes whether it should be on the market at all, because when they know of the problems they should be considering removal from the market," he said in a phone interview.

None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

A lawyer for Johnson & Johnson did not wish to comment on the Quebec class action, but the company has argued there is no proof its products cause health problems.

According to the court documents, the defence has disputed the validity of the studies presented by Kramar and has also claimed she had several health conditions that put her at risk of developing cancer.

It is not clear whether the two companies will appeal the decision by Quebec Superior Court Justice Andre Prevost.

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal action against Johnson & Johnson that alleges it failed to warn women about the dangers of its signature baby powder products.

Last year, a California judge overturned a jury's record-breaking $417 million US verdict against Johnson & Johnson and granted the company's request for a new trial.

Merchant's firm has also filed a second class action request on behalf of women in other Canadian provinces, which has yet to be authorized.

They will be seeking a yet to be determined amount of financial compensation.

The lawyer says about 470 Canadian women have signed on so far, including 41 in the Quebec suit.

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