Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been ordered to pay $18.8m to a California man who claimed that he developed cancer from exposure to the company’s baby powder.

Emory Hernandez Valadez, who sued J&J in a California state court in Oakland last year, won the jury’s decision. He was seeking monetary damages.

Hernandez claims that heavy exposure to the company’s talc starting in his early years led to the development of mesothelioma in the tissue surrounding his heart.

The six-week trial was the first talc-related case that New Brunswick, New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant had to deal with in almost two years.

The jury found that Hernandez was entitled to damages from the court to cover his medical costs and agony and suffering, but the jury decided not to punish the firm with punitive damages.

Reuters reported that he will not be able to collect the judgement anytime soon because of a bankruptcy court decision blocking most of J&J’s talc litigation.

J&J litigation VP Erik Haas said that the company will appeal against the verdict and called the judgement “irreconcilable with the decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos and does not cause cancer.”

The ruling is considered a setback for the pharma company as it seeks to close many similar cases over its talc-based products in the US bankruptcy court.

In a separate development, J&J filed suit against the US government to stop a programme that gives the Medicare government health insurance plan the power to negotiate reduced drug prices, reported Reuters.

According to the pharmaceutical industry, President Joe Biden’s centrepiece inflation reduction act law’s medication price negotiating programme will reduce earnings and force drugmakers to halt the development of new therapies.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the US Chamber of Commerce have also filed lawsuits against the government over the plan, along with US pharmaceutical firms Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

US Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson told Reuters: “As the Secretary has already made clear, we will vigorously defend the President’s drug price negotiation law, which is already helping to lower health care costs for seniors and people with disabilities.”