Growing claims of asbestos-contaminated talc in many consumer products, along with the historic approval of a new treatment for pleural mesothelioma, have made 2020 a year full of anxiety and hope.
Johnson & Johnson stopped selling its baby powder in May after it faced thousands of lawsuits alleging that its talc-containing product caused several cancers, including ovarian cancer and malignant mesothelioma.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the immunotherapy combination of Opdivo and Yervoy in October, the first new drug regimen approved for first-line treatment of irreversible disease in 16 years.
There have also been inspiring mesothelioma survivors emerging, promising clinical trials and diligent cancer specialists breaking new ground over the past 12 months.
Here are the 10 most trending news stories about mesothelioma and asbestos in 2020.
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Drops
Affected by a torrent of lawsuits alleging asbestos contamination and cancer risks in its product, Johnson & Johnson announced in May that it would stop selling Johnson’s talc-based baby powder in the United States and Canada.
The company has been manufacturing the product for more than 100 years.
She has remained steadfast in insisting that her baby powder is safe to use, and has attributed the discontinuation of distribution to declining consumer demand, litigation advertisements and “misinformation” about safety.
Johnson’s talc-based baby powder will continue to be sold outside of North America. The cornstarch version will become the standard within the United States and Canada.
Read more about J&J talk sales.
Johnson & Johnson to pay $100 million to settle lawsuits
Johnson & Johnson stayed in the news when it agreed to pay $100 million to settle more than 1,000 lawsuits alleging that baby powder containing talc caused cancer.
Although it has settled a small number of individual claims either before or during trials in the past, this was the first time it had settled lawsuits in large quantities over the controversial baby powder.
Despite the settlement in October, J&J continued to insist that its product was safe and that any asbestos contamination found in testing was an isolated case.
The majority of cases involve women who have used the product for many years and have developed ovarian cancer. Only a small percentage were associated with mesothelioma, a more aggressive cancer that results almost exclusively from exposure to asbestos.
Read more about J&J lawsuits.
Revlon becomes latest talc lawsuit target
Revlon has become the latest cosmetics company to be sued for the asbestos-contaminated talc in one of its products that caused mesothelioma cancer.
A Maryland couple filed the lawsuit in New York state court, claiming $20 million in damages and $40 million in punitive damages.
The woman believes that her mesothelioma stems from her father’s earlier work with Revlon and the products he provided her. Jean Naté Silkening Body Powder was one of them and is no longer manufactured.
Many cosmetics contain talc, which is one of the world’s softest minerals. It is mined near the ground service. Unfortunately, it is often found near asbestos deposits.
Revlon has joined Justice, another retailer that markets cosmetics to young girls, as a target in the lawsuit. Despite this, cosmetics companies have been defendants in only a small portion of talc cases.
Read more about talc lawsuits.
Found asbestos in eye shadow
Talc contaminated with asbestos has been found in two new eye shadow products. Both were sold online primarily through eBay and Amazon.
Asbestos fibers are found in 40% of Jmkcoz 120 Colors Eyeshadow Palette and 20% of Beauty Glazed Gorgeous Me Eye Shadow Tray Palette.
The test was conducted by the Analytical Scientific Institute in Greensboro, North Carolina, which uses a transmission electron microscope. The discovery came on the heels of another study by the Food and Drug Administration that found contaminated talc in nine out of 52 cosmetic products tested.
Read more about asbestos in eye shadows.
Keytruda has been approved for the selection of cancer patients
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab in June to treat some metastatic tumors, including a small number that include pleural mesothelioma.
The drug, also known by the brand name Keytruda, is approved for irreversible disease and a significant mutational burden that has developed after first-line treatment with no alternative options remaining.
In previous clinical trials involving mesothelioma patients, Keytruda was particularly effective, but only in a small proportion of patients.
“It can be used to treat mesothelioma, but it’s not a panacea,” Dr. Raja Flores, MD, a specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told Asbestos.com’s Mesothelioma Center. “Its overall efficacy is modest at best.”
Read more about Keytruda approval.
Missouri upholds Landmark Johnson and Johnson rulings
A Missouri appeals court upheld a landmark jury ruling against Johnson & Johnson, but cut a record amount in punitive and compensatory damages from $4.69 billion to $2.1 billion in June.
The case involved 22 women who alleged that ovarian cancer was caused by asbestos-contaminated talc products from Johnson & Johnson.
The company said it would appeal again to the Missouri Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear the case. J&J has been subject to more than 19,000 lawsuits in federal and state courts in connection with its talc products.
Read more about governing Missouri.
FDA discovers harmful evidence of asbestos in makeup
In the most damning study to date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found talc contaminated with asbestos in nine of the 52 beauty products it tested during a year-long study.
Claire’s, City Color, and Johnson & Johnson were among the brands where asbestos was found.
The study highlighted the ongoing controversy over methods for testing and accurate estimation of asbestos minerals. Transmission electron microscopy found asbestos in all nine products. Polarized light microscopy found asbestos in only two of the 52.
Read more about asbestos in makeup.
Standard talc test gain traction
Experts from eight different federal agencies have recommended the use of a standardized test for cosmetic talc for the presence of asbestos and other potentially harmful mineral products.
The recommendations are designed to end persistent analysis discrepancies about whether products were contaminated with carcinogens.
These test recommendations were part of a broader study aimed at improving the safety of consumer products and submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Read more about the talc test.
Banning asbestos takes decades to show benefits
Nearly 30 years after banning asbestos, the country of Italy is now experiencing the height of the mesothelioma cancer crisis.
Italy has served as an example of why the medical field must continue its work toward finding a cure for mesothelioma, even with stricter regulations and potential bans looming in other countries.
Research has shown that there is no immediate benefit from banning asbestos. Mesothelioma — which is caused almost exclusively by asbestos — can take up to 50 years after exposure to be diagnosed.
Read more about banning asbestos in Italy.
FDA approves immunotherapy for mesothelioma
To boost the hopes of patients and families across the country, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first new drug treatment regimen in 16 years for malignant mesothelioma of the pleura.
In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the immunotherapy combination of Opdivo and Yervoy for first-line treatment of irreversible disease.
The approval stems from an international phase III clinical trial in which the combination demonstrated superior overall survival compared to standard chemotherapy.
This achievement was even more dramatic for those with a sarcomatoid cell type or biphasic mesothelioma. Median overall survival went from 8.8 months with chemotherapy to 18.1 months with the combination immunotherapy.
Read more about the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of immunotherapy.
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