Author: press release

A lawsuit was filed against Johnson & Johnson and its Consumer Products Companies in the United States District Court, District of New Jersey on behalf of Oral Cancer Prevention International, Inc. (OCPI). OCPI is the developer of OralCDx®, a patented, testing protocol that can prevent oral cancer by identifying precancerous (dysplastic) cells in the mouth while they are still harmless. OralCDx® testing can be performed by dentists in addition to otolaryngologists (ENT’s), family practitioners, dermatologists, and other physicians.

The complaint alleges that in order to protect sales of its mouthwash Listerine, which has been linked to oral cancer, Johnson & Johnson and its Consumer Products Companies intentionally interfered with a February 10, 2010 sales agreement between OCPI and OraPharma, Inc., a specialty oral healthcare company. OraPharma had agreed to obtain the exclusive sales rights for OralCDx® to US dentists.

According to Attorney James S. O’Brien, Jr. of Pryor Cashman LLP, who represents OCPI: “The effect of J&J’s behavior, based on OraPharma’s own projections, is that an estimated 7,300 cases of otherwise preventable oral cancer will occur in the United States over the term of the sales agreement.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, over 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. It kills approximately as many Americans as melanoma, twice as many as cervical cancer, and is now rapidly rising among women, young people, and non-smokers. In fact there has been a nearly five-fold increase in oral cancer incidence in patients under age 40, many with no known risk factors. The high mortality rate for oral cancer has not decreased over the past 50 years primarily because there was no accurate, painless test to detect oral pre-cancer and early oral cancer.

The complaint accuses J&J on three main counts: fraud, tortuous interference with contract, and civil conspiracy. While it seeks a minimum of $60 million, based on the written OralCDx sales projections provided by OraPharma to OCPI, the full scope of its compensatory damages for just the first half of the OraPharma sales agreement which J&J blocked are in excess of $400M.
“Our laboratory already has data on thousands of patients whose life was saved only because an OralCDx test was performed. It is an unspeakable tragedy that so many thousands of other patients will develop this devastating cancer as a result of a Company’s wrongful actions to defend their sales of a mouthwash,” said Mark Rutenberg, CEO of OCPI.