Taxotere Users Allege Chemo Drug Caused Irreversible Hair Loss

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Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

Taxotere Lawsuit Alleges Sanofi Failed to Warn of Permanent Hair Loss

Another lawsuit has been filed against Sanofi-Aventis alleging that the chemotherapy drug Taxotere caused irreversible hair loss, and that the drug maker knew about the risks but failed to warn patients or physicians. The plaintiff, like others suing over Taxotere, alleges that she expected her hair to fall out as a side effect of chemotherapy. However, she and her doctors believed the hair loss to be temporary. The suit alleges that Sanofi-Aventis promoted Taxotere as an effective chemotherapy agent without adequately disclosing the risk of permanent alopecia.

Parker Waichman LLP is a national law firm representing numerous clients in drug injury claims. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to anyone with questions about filing a Taxotere permanent hair loss lawsuit.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in 2010. To remove the cancer, she underwent a partial mastectomy. Follow-up treatment included chemotherapy with Taxotere. The lawsuit alleges that she and her doctors were led to believe that any hair loss would be temporary. However, the hair loss has been permanent.

In general, chemotherapy treatments work by targeting rapidly growing cells. Unfortunately, this affects both healthy and cancerous cells. Hair follicle cells, which grow quickly, are one of the healthy cell types affected.

The plaintiff alleges that Sanofi-Aventis promoted Taxotere as more effective than other treatments while failing to warn about the risk of permanent hair loss. However, research has shown that other chemotherapy drugs have similar effectiveness. For example, a 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) compared Taxotere with Taxol, and found that Taxol is also effective.

The lawsuit alleges that Sanofi Aventis marketed Taxotere as another chemotherapy option while knowing that patients may be left permanently bald. The complaint alleges that the company “misled the plaintiff, the public and medical community to believe that, as with other chemotherapy drugs that cause alopecia (hair loss) the patients hair would grow back”.

The plaintiff alleges that “defendants knew or should have known that the rate of permanent alopecia related to TAXOTERE® was far greater than with other products available to treat the same condition as Defendants’ product.”

The lawsuit joins similar cases as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) in Louisiana.
Taxotere was approved in 1996. The chemotherapy agent is used to treat cancers of the head and neck, breast cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer.

Taxotere Hair Loss Lawsuits Mount in MDL

Parker Waichman comments that Taxotere permanent hair loss lawsuits are mounting in the MDL. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) establishes MDLs when there are similar lawsuits with common questions of fact. Consolidating these cases to one court before one judge streamlines the legal process and makes the overall litigation more efficient. For example, the discovery phase and expert testimony only needs to take place once instead of for every case.

Unlike in a class action lawsuit, where one complaint represents numerous plaintiffs (class) against a common defendant, lawsuits in an MDL are filed individually. While the cases in an MDL contain the same basic allegations, the severity of injuries may vary between plaintiffs. In the Taxotere MDL, plaintiffs similarly allege that the chemotherapy drug caused irreversible hair loss and that Sanofi-Aventis was aware of this risk but failed to warn patients or the medical community.

In creating the Taxotere MDL, the JPML ruled that the lawsuits shared “common factual questions arising out of allegations that Taxotere (docetaxel), a chemotherapy drug, causes permanent hair loss, that defendants were aware of this possible side effect and failed to warn patients. . . Plaintiffs in these actions each allege that they experienced permanent hair loss as a result of using Taxotere.”

Court documents indicate that the Taxotere litigation continues to grow and move forward. The MDL contains at least 800 lawsuits. U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt has already approved a plaintiff fact sheet and appointed representatives to settlement committees. Additionally, the judge set a deadline of Mar. 31 for a master and short form complaint.

In an MDL, a master complaint is the complaint that applies to all plaintiffs. The short form complaint is used for each plaintiff’s individual allegations.

Taxotere and Permanent Hair Loss

Plaintiffs in the litigation state that earlier marketing materials assured patients that any hair loss was likely temporary. Previously, a patient brochure stated that “hair generally grows back” with Taxotere. The brochure was updated to state that “In some cases (frequency not known) permanent hair loss has been observed.”

Permanent hair loss was added to the Taxotere label in December 2015. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a labeling change disclosing that “Permanent cases of alopecia have been reported,”

Taxotere plaintiffs also point out that the drug carried a warning for permanent hair loss in Europe long before users and doctors in the United States were informed.

In alleging that Sanofi-Aventis was aware of the risks, plaintiffs cite data from the GEICAM 9805 study in which 9.2 percent of patients taking Taxotere, Adriamcycin, and Cyclophosphamide suffered permanent hair loss more than a decade after taking the drug.

Other studies have also shown that Taxotere can lead to permanent alopecia. This complication was noted, for example, in one study published 2012 in the Annals of Oncology. “Permanent and severe alopecia is a newly reported complication of the FEC 100–docetaxel breast cancer regimen,” researchers wrote. “Considering the increasing role of taxane-based therapies in adjuvant treatment, physicians and patients should be aware of this new distressing side-effect,”

At the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center, researchers found that 6.3 percent (7 out of 120 women) developed persistent hair loss after chemotherapy. “Such an emotionally devastating long term toxicity from this combination must be taken into account when deciding on adjuvant chemotherapy programs in women who likely will be cured of their breast cancer,” researchers stated.

Filing a Taxotere Lawsuit

If you or someone you know suffered permanent hair loss after taking Taxotere, you may have valuable legal rights. Parker Waichman offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, contact our firm today by filling out our online form or calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).