Scientific Presentations on Link Between Taxotere and Hair Loss Set for May 3

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Taxotere lawsuits will hold a “Science Day” on May 3, at which time the parties will make non-adversarial presentations designed to educate the court about the link between the use of the breast cancer chemotherapy drug and permanent hair loss. 

Since October 2016, claims filed against Sanofi-Aventis over failure to warn about the link between Taxotere and permanent hair loss have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation. Cases filed nationwide are centralized before U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt in the Eastern District of Louisiana, to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the litigation, avoid conflicting rulings from different courts and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

Although alopecia hair loss is a known and accepted side effect of chemotherapy, plaintiffs maintain that the drug maker provided false and misleading information that suggested hair regrows following Taxotere treatment, which is not the case for many women. In addition, plaintiffs indicate that equally effective breast cancer treatments have not been associated with the same risk of permanent hair problems.

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According to a pretrial order (PDF) issued on March 24, a Science Day is scheduled for May 3, at which time information will be presented to the Court that is educational in nature.

In complex product liability litigation, where a large number of claims have been brought alleging that individuals suffered similar injuries or medical issues as a result of the same product, it is not uncommon for the Court to schedule such scientific presentations, which are designed to allow the parties to explain issues that will come up in the case in a non-adversarial setting, which are typically not on the record or subject to cross-examination.

Taxotere Hair Loss Problems

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.

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.

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