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Oral Cancer Prevention International Lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson Claims that J&J's Actions to Protect Listerine Expected to Cause Over 7,300 Oral Cancers Across the US and Over 1,200 in New York.

SUFFERN, N.Y. -- A lawsuit filed by Oral Cancer Prevention International (OCPI) against Johnson & Johnson in Federal Court in Trenton New Jersey claims that J&J's actions to protect the reputation of its Listerine mouthwash, which has been linked to oral cancer, can be expected to result in over 7,300 cases of otherwise preventable oral cancer across the US and over 1,120 such cancers in New York State alone. Some of the key markets impacted include: California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

"Oral cancer kills as many Americans as melanoma and twice as many as cervical cancer," says Mark Rutenberg, CEO of OCPI. "It is also rising sharply among women, young people and non-smokers. Because there has previously not been an easy way to test routine oral spots for precancerous cells, the disease is generally not detected until it is an already invasive cancer with a high mortality rate that has changed little in the last 50 years."

The lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages, claims that J&J blocked an agreement between OCPI and a then J&J subsidiary to sell its test for oral precancer. The lawsuit claims that J&J was concerned that such sales could draw attention in the $1B US Listerine market to recent studies suggesting that the mouthwash may be linked to oral cancer. J&J was particularly concerned about a 2008 study in the Australian Dental Journal -- which concluded that mouthwashes with high alcohol content could cause oral cancer - because Listerine sales in Australia subsequently dropped by 50 percent. Listerine has the highest alcohol content of any over-the-counter-mouthwash.

As a result of its regard for the reputation of Listerine, J&J prevented a then subsidiary, OraPharma Inc., from executing on its exclusive sales agreement with OCPI to educate US dentists on how to prevent oral cancer using its painless test for still-harmless precancerous oral cells. Virtually all oral cancers begin as a very small, painless, white or red oral spot that look identical to the common oral spots that appear in about 10 percent of adults at any time. OCPI's "Brush Test," known as OralCDx, is somewhat like an "oral Pap smear" in that it uses a specialized painless biopsy brush and computerized analysis of the specimen to quickly and accurately determine if a harmless appearing oral spot may contain precancerous cells.

OralCDx was the subject of the largest clinical trial ever conducted in dentistry and a historic three-year nationwide public service billboard, transit, and magazine advertising campaign sponsored by the American Dental Association, which advised Americans "It's a tiny spot now. Don't let it become Oral Cancer. Ask your Dentist about a Brush Test."

OraPharma's sales and education program to US dentists was intended to follow-up on this historic ADA program by educating dentists on how to find oral spots and perform the OralCDx test.

"Due to its concerns about the reputation of Listerine, J&J restricted OraPharma to selling OralCDx to the 4 percent of New York dentists who do not recommend a mouthwash to their patients," continues Rutenberg. "Based on the number of oral cancers already prevented by the over 500,000 OralCDx tests performed to date, we believe that J&J's actions to prevent more dentists from being educated on OralCDx will result in over 1,200 otherwise preventable oral cancer cases in New York and over 7,300 across the US."

Oral Cancer Prevention International, LLC in Suffern, New York, is a privately held company categorized under Pathology.
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Publication:Business Wire
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Aug 11, 2011
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