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An Alabama woman indicates that she suffered permanent hair loss from Taxotere chemotherapy treatments, alleging that the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risk, which is not associated with equally effective breast cancer drugs.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Irene Adams in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Alabama on November 10, indicating that Sanofi-Aventis withheld information from consumers and the medical community about the risk that Taxotere treatments may result in long-term hair loss.
Adams was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2014, and underwent chemotherapy that included Taxotere from August 2014 through November 2014. While alopecia, or temporary hair loss, is a common side effect of chemotherapy, Adam indicates that she has been left with a permanent form of the hair loss, continuing to experience problems years after chemotherapy treatment was complete.
The lawsuit claims that Sanofi-Aventis was purposefully deceptive in failing to mention that Taxotere hair loss could be permanent.
“There were already products on the market at least as effective as Taxotere that did not subject users to the same risk of permanent alopecia, but users of Taxotere were not presented with the opportunity to make an informed choice as to whether the benefits of Taxotere were worth its associated risks,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants engaged in a pattern of deception by overstating the benefits of Taxotere as compared to other alternatives while simultaneously failing to warn of the risk of permanent alopecia.”
Adam’s case joins a growing number of similar Taxotere chemotherapy hair loss lawsuits filed in courts nationwide, each raising similar allegations that the drug maker did not adequately disclose the risks of permanent and disfiguring alopecia, providing false and misleading marketing statements.
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, Adams and other women nationwide now 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 Taxotere warnings in several other countries were updated to include information about the risk of permanent baldness, that same information was not provided to American women and doctors.
As early as 2005, studies 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.
Last month the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered all Taxotere lawsuits filed in federal courts nationwide consolidated before U.S. District Judge Lance Africk in the Eastern District of Louisiana for 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 trails in courts throughout the U.S.