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A panel of federal judges has decided to consolidate the Taxotere litigation, involving claims filed by women nationwide who suffered permanent hair loss following chemotherapy treatments with the breast cancer drug, centralizing the cases before one judge in New Orleans.
There are currently at least 33 lawsuits over Taxotere hair loss problems pending in 16 different U.S. District Courts nationwide, each involving similar allegations that Sanofi-Aventis failed to adequately warn about the risk that hair loss may be permanent with Taxotere, promoting use of their breast cancer drug over other treatment alternatives that were just as effective, but do not carry the same problems.
In a transfer order (PDF) issued last week, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established coordinated pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Lance Africk in the Eastern District of Louisiana, which is designed to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the litigation, avoid conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
As Taxotere injury lawyers continue to review and file claims for women throughout the United States in the coming months and years, it is widely expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of additional cases are likely to be transferred into the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).
Judge Africk will oversee the coordinated discovery in the Taxotere litigation, and it is likely that a small group of “bellwether” cases will be scheduled for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.
Taxotere (docetaxel) is a high potency taxane-based cancer drug, which was introduced by Sanofi-Aventis in 1996 as a superior alternative to existing low-potency taxanes, such as Taxol. However, lawsuits allege that the drug is actually no more effective at treating breast cancer, yet carries a risk of permanent hair loss, or alopecia, which has not been associated with low-potency taxanes.
While hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy, it is usually temporary. According to allegations raised in Taxotere hair loss cases filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, Sanofi-Aventis provided false and misleading information for consumers and physicians in the United States, withholding reports of on-going hair problems experienced by users of the high-potency taxane.
Plaintiffs maintain that Sanofi-Aventis knew or should have known about the link between Taxotere and hair loss problems that continue for years following treatment, yet placed their desire for profits before consumer safety.
As early as 2005, studies have found that women face a substantial risk of permanent hair loss with Taxotere, including findings that indicate one out of every 10 patients treated with Taxotere suffered hair loss that lasted up to 10 years and five months following chemotherapy, and in some cases longer.
While Taxotere warnings in several other countries included information about the permanent alopecia risk, that same information was not provided to American women or doctors.