A bellwether trial will begin next fall when hundreds of American women allege they experienced permanent hair loss as a result of using the breast cancer treatment drug Taxotere. Bellwether cases are held to provide some indication of a jury’s reaction where there are numerous lawsuits with similar complaints that have been consolidated in multidistrict (MDL) litigations. An MDL is often created to streamline the court process by being held in one court before one judge to lower court costs and permit a faster outcome.
The court proceedings will start on September 24, 2018 in the Eastern District of Louisiana. There are about 1,272 lawsuits that have been filed against the manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis involving alopecia (permanent hair loss) in breast cancer patients that are pending at this time.
It is also alleged Sanofi-Aventis engaged in a fraudulent marketing scheme that included paying kickbacks and providing other unlawful incentives to attract physicians to prescribe Taxotere.
How Taxotere Works
Taxotere (docetaxel) is developed from the yew tree and works by stopping cancer cells from dividing. It is one of the Taxane group of drugs and used in a variety of chemotherapies. The allegations focus on the claim by plaintiffs that Sanofi (as it is currently called) promoted Taxotere as more effective than Taxol, a competing drug.
If Taxotere had been the only choice for women, they perhaps would have accepted the hair loss risk. However, a study published in a 2008 New England Journal of Medicine showed that Taxol was as effective as, or more effective than Taxotere.
Some additional side effects to Taxotere according to breastcancer.org include: susceptibility to infection, fluid retention, allergic reactions, numbness in fingers and toes (neuropathy), nausea, vomiting, constipation, fatigue, muscle pain, and bone or joint pain.
FDA Approves Taxotere in 1996
Lawsuits allege that Sanofi-Aventis had knowledge of reports and studies linking Taxotere to permanent hair loss following chemotherapy as far back as 1996, the year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it. In addition to breast cancer, Taxotere is used to treat head and neck cancer, gastric cancer, prostate cancer, and non-small cell lung cancer.
A previous patient leaflet for Taxotere patients said that “Once you have completed all your treatment, hair generally grows back.” But, in December 2015, the FDA updated the safety information on Taxotere to include the adverse reaction of hair loss: “permanent cases of alopecia have been reported.”
There is now a flood of lawsuits involving permanent hair loss from cancer patients who were given the chemotherapy drug during their treatment. The plaintiffs claim they were not adequately warned of Taxotere’s dangers and that Sanofi-Aventis had provided false and misleading information that suggested hair regrows after Taxotere treatment.
Many of the women who have experienced permanent hair loss maintain that if they had been warned about the alopecia risk associated with Taxotere, they would have chosen other breast cancer treatments that have been shown to be just as effective, but do not have the same risk of permanent hair loss.
The attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have extensive experience and success representing clients in drug injury lawsuits. Our lawyers are actively reviewing potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been injured by pharmaceuticals, including Taxotere.
A woman from California who is involved in the MDL, expressed in a statement in March, that she, the public, and the medical community had been misled and were led to believe that, as with other chemotherapy drugs that cause hair loss, the patients’ hair would grow back.
Breast Cancer Data
Although it is always a disheartening diagnosis, if caught early, the mortality rate of many cancers is quite low. The five-year relative survival rate for women with stage I breast cancer is close to 100 percent. For women with stage II breast cancer, the five-year relative survival rate is about 93 percent. Other cancers may be equally survivable.
A 35-year-old woman with stage I breast cancer who takes Taxotere that then leads to being bald for life, possibly long after the cancer is gone, it is a devastating outcome. Women in Europe and Canada were warned by the manufacturer about the possibility of permanent hair loss, but not in the U.S. until relatively recently. Women should at the very least, be given the option of making an informed choice.
Legal Information and Advice for Taxotere Users
If you or someone you know suffered permanent hair loss due to the use of Taxotere, you may be eligible for valuable compensation. Parker Waichman LLP personal injury lawyers offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. We urge you to contact our attorneys at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).