Aug 30, 2011

Listerine Linked to an Increased Risk of Oral Cancer

Using Mouthwash Could Increase Risk of Cancer by Nine Times, claim Scientists

                  Studies have linked the high alcohol content of some mouthwashes to oral cancer. Now Oral Cancer Prevention International (OCPI), a New York company, has filed a law suit in New Jersey claiming that Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s biggest companies, interfered with a distribution contract it had for the test as it did not want to lend credence to the link between mouthwash and the disease.
       According to the lawsuit, in February 2010 OCPI signed a contract with a company called OraPharma – which was then a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson – to distribute its cancer test, called the Oral CDx Brush Test. The test is designed to identify pre-cancerous cells in people’s mouths.
However OCPI alleges that Johnson & Johnson grew “extremely concerned about the implications” of an Australian study that linked mouthwashes to cancer.
       OCPI said that the multi-national did not want to “lend credence to the link between Listerine and oral cancer” by selling both products. The company went on to allege that Johnson & Johnson “induced OraPharma to breach the sales agreement” to suppress sales of the test “in order to protect sales of its mouthwash, Listerine”. 
Johnson & Johnson has said: “The company is confident that we have engaged in proper business practices and we look forward to the opportunity to resolve this matter through the legal system.”
             The lawsuit by the company, Oral Cancer Prevention International Inc., claims J&J worried that consumers might link Listerine with oral cancer, a disease that affects 30,000 Americans every year, because of a 2008 study published in Australia.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the symptoms of oral cancer can include bleeding inside of the mouth and loss of teeth.
             "The potential that could have to sales of Listerine for J&J would be absolutely devastating," said Philip Hoffman, an attorney for the plaintiff company, OCPI.
On July 6, OCPI sued J&J for at least $60 million for protecting the sales of Listerine over the distribution of its product, the OralCDx Brush Test, which helps to detect and prevent oral cancer, according to the OCPI lawsuit. 
              The OCPI website says that the BrushTest is used to determine if a common oral spot contains abnormal cells that may develop into oral cancer. The company claims that in the last 10 years, the BrushTest has helped to prevent more than 21,000 cases of oral cancer.
Johnson & Johnson spokesman Marcus Boston refused to comment on the case beyond a prepared statement emailed to ABC News.

                In 2008, The Australian Dental Journal published an article on a study that found, "there is now sufficient evidence" that "alcohol-containing mouthwashes contribute to the increased risk of development of oral cancer."
                The same article added, "It is inadvisable for oral healthcare professionals to recommend the long-term use of alcohol-containing mouthwashes."
Although the study did not mention Listerine or any specific brands, Listerine antiseptic mouthwash may contain up to 26 percent alcohol, according to the Listerine website.


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