Hair Loss Lawsuits Over Taxotere Chemotherapy Treatments Continue to Mount

With a panel of federal judges scheduled to hear oral arguments later this month about whether to centralize and consolidate all Taxotere chemotherapy treatment lawsuits, a growing number of new claims continue to be filed by women nationwide who allege they have been left with permanent hair loss from side effects of the drug.

Taxotere (docetaxel) is a taxane-based breast cancer drug, which was introduced by Sanofi-Aventis in 1996 as a higher potency version of alternative chemotherapy drugs that were already on the market.

While it was promoted as superior to existing treatment options, such as Taxol, a growing number of lawsuits allege that it is no more effective, and that side effects of Taxotere actually increase the risk of permanent hair loss following chemotherapy, which is not associated with lower-potency taxanes.

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Side effects of Taxotere may cause sudden eye problems or result in permanent hair loss. Lawsuits reviewed nationwide.

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Although hair loss is an expected part of chemotherapy treatment, it is usually temporary and plaintiffs claim that Sanofi-Aventis provided false and misleading information when it suggested that hair would regrow following Taxotere breast cancer chemotherapy.

In July, a motion was filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, seeking to consolidate all Taxotere cases pending throughout the federal court system. Given the similar questions of fact and law raised in the complaints, plaintiffs Veronica Smith and Kelly Gahan indicated that the cases should be centralized before one judge as part of an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation, to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and serve the convenience of witnesses, parties and the courts.

At the time, there were 33 complaints filed in courts nationwide. However, according to a response in support (pdf) this week by two women who recently brought complaints in California, that number has already increased to more than 50 cases spread out among 27 federal courts nationwide.

In addition, since the beginning of this month, court records show that at least a dozen new hair loss lawsuits over Taxotere chemotherapy treatments have been filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide. In addition, as lawyers continue to review claims for women who have been left with ongoing hair problems, the litigation is expected to continue to increase in scope.

Taxotere Permanent Hair Loss

Each of the complaints involved in the litigation raise nearly identical allegations, indicating that women who expected hair to regrow following chemotherapy involving Taxotere have been left with permanent problems, such as bald spots, thin hair and other disfiguring problems.

Plaintiffs maintain that Sanofi-Aventis knew or should have known about the link between Taxotere and hair loss problems, yet placed their desire for profits before consumer safety, providing false and misleading information to the medical community in the United States.

While Taxotere warnings in several other countries have been updated to include information about the risk of permanent hair, that same information was not provided to American women and doctors.

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.

The U.S. JPML is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the MDL motion on September 29, in Washington, D.C.

If the cases are centralized before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings, it is likely that a small group of cases will be prepared for early “bellwether” trials to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and expert testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. While the outcome of such early trials will not be binding in other cases, they may help the parties reach Taxotere settlements for women suffering permanent hair loss problems, avoiding the need for dozens of individual trials in courts throughout the U.S.

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