The Daily Hornet reports on the recent significant increase in the number of lawsuits alleging the chemotherapy drug Taxotere causes permanent hair loss. When lawsuits that had been filed across the nation against drug-maker Sanofi-Aventis were consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Eastern District of Louisiana under U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt last October, there were 33 cases. According to updates from the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) in mid-December there were 267 lawsuits. A month later the number of suits had risen to 705, nearly tripling the size of the litigation.
“The number of lawsuits has skyrocketed as more people who did not re-grow their hair after chemotherapy learn that permanent alopecia is a side effect of Taxotere,” says the Daily Hornet.
In the United States, many Taxotere patients are just now finding out about this side effect of the drug. Although Sanofi-Aventis was aware of the potential side effect, and patients in other countries were warned as early as 2005, it was not updated on the safety label in the United States until 2015. Patients had been told “hair generally grows back” after completing chemotherapy and those whose hair did not grow back were left wondering at the cause of their permanent hair loss.
This was the experience recounted by a recent blogger at A Head of Our Time, an online support group for those who suffer from Taxotere-induced alopecia. She wrote, “But this medical impact is permanent and comes with permanent impacts. For one, breast reconstruction surgery was not recommended for me because the doctors were unsure if I had an autoimmune disorder. The alopecia was a major factor in that. We didn’t know why I had alopecia. And even though I didn’t test with the typical blood test markers for an autoimmune disease, it was clear my body was rejecting my hair follicles. To the doctors and me, alopecia was an outward sign of something inward that wasn’t working properly. And we feared that my body would reject a breast implant as well….So I am indeed concerned that these doctors, who held my life in their hands, were not given the proper information from the drug distributors about the long-term impact.”
“Sanofi-Aventis’s own clinical trials in the 1990s found that 9.2 percent of women with breast cancer who completed chemotherapy with Taxotere, Adriamcycin, and Cyclophosphamide (TAC) reported hair loss that persisted during the 10-year follow-up period,” reports the Daily Hornet.
Taxotere is used to treat breast, lung, prostate, stomach, and head and neck cancer, but according to the Daily Hornet most of the suits against Sanofi-Aventis are filed by women with breast cancer who did not regrow their hair after being treated with Taxotere.
“I have no doubt that, had I been told that Taxotere had a chance of permanent baldness, I would have selected Taxol. I know this because I have notes asking four different doctors the difference between the two. And I was told that the main difference was the inconvenience of getting the Taxol more often. This inconvenience is nothing compared to forty years of wearing a hot, itchy wig,” wrote the blogger.
“I made choices based on the information given. Choice. Choice is what makes us human, male or female. Is it possible that most women, not just me, might have chosen Taxol over Taxotere?”