Taxotere Alopecia Lawsuit Filed By Woman Who Suffers On-Going Hairloss Problems

After battling breast cancer, a lawsuit recently filed by a Colorado woman alleges that side effects of Taxotere caused her to experience continuing hair loss for several years after completing chemotherapy treatments, known as permanent alopecia. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed late last month by Melissa F. Leith in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, alleging that Sanofi-Aventis failed to adequately warn about the link between permanent alopecia and Taxotere.

From February 2013 through April 2013, Leith underwent breast cancer chemotherapy to treat breast cancer involving the use of Taxotere, which is a high potency medication that is part of a class of drugs known as Taxanes.

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


While temporary alopecia is a common chemotherapy side effect, the lawsuit indicates that neither Leith nor her doctors were told that Taxotere alopecia could be permanent. Since alternative treatments for her breast cancer were available, Leith alleges that she and her doctor were deprived of the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether to accept the risk of permanent hair problems.

Taxotere (docetaxel) was approved by the FDA in May 1996, and is given by injection with other chemotherapy drugs. It is used for treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer after prior chemotherapy attempts had failed, competing with several other treatment alternatives, which studies have shown are at least as effective.

For women, Taxotere alopecia is a particularly disfiguring and damaging condition, according to the complaint, which indicates that it may cause great mental anguish, economic damages and diminished ability to work due to the psychological damage.

Leith claims that Sanofi-Aventis knew or should have known that, unlike other cancer drugs, Taxotere had a high risk of permanent hair problems. However, rather than warnings consumer and the medical community, the drug maker allegedly concealed the information, and continued to engage in illegal and misleading advertising designed to entice doctors to use Taxotere over safer, lower potency Taxanes.

“Although women might accept the possibility of permanent baldness as a result of the use of docetaxel (TAXOTERE®) if no other product were available to treat their cancer, this was not the case,” the lawsuit states. “Before Defendants’ wrongful conduct resulted in thousands of women being exposed to the side effects of docetaxel (TAXOTERE®), there were already similar products on the market that were at least as effective as docetaxel (TAXOTERE®) and did not subject female users to the same risk of disfiguring permanent alopecia as does docetaxel (TAXOTERE®).

In 2005, a study known as GEICAM 9805 found that almost one out of every 10 patients who received Taxotere experienced long-term hair loss for up to 10 years and five months, and in some cases longer. This study was sponsored by Sanofi-Aventis, yet plaintiffs claim information about the permanent hair loss risk was withheld from consumers and the medical community.

Reports of Taxotere hair loss problems were also submitted to the drug maker by medical providers. In 2006, at least one Denver-based oncologist reported that 6.3% of patients he treated with Taxotere suffered permanent hair loss for years after taking the drug.

The case joins a growing number of Taxotere alopecia lawsuits filed in recent months by women who have been left with permanent baldness following chemotherapy treatment, indicating that they were under the impression their hair would regrow.

Leith presents claims against Sanofi-Aventis for negligence, designing and manufacturing a defective product, failure to warn, breach of warranty, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation, strict product liability, fraud and deceit, as well as extreme and outrageous conduct in disregarding the risks associated with Taxotere.


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