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Sanofi-Aventis now faces more than 1,100 claims brought by women nationwide who allege that they have been left with permanent hair loss due to side effects of Taxotere, a chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat breast cancer, which has been linked to reports of long-term alopecia, which is not seen with other, equally effective treatments.
Since October 2016, all Taxotere lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
Due to similar questions of fact and law raised in the cases, the Taxotere litigation is 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 hair loss is a known and accepted side effect of chemotherapy, women 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 if they had been warned about this risk, they would have elected to receive other breast cancer treatments that have been shown to be just as effective, yet do not carry the same permanent hair problems.
According to a joint report (PDF) by the parties last week, at leat 1,116 Taxotere cases were pending as of May 10, with all but two cases filed in state courts nationwide removed to the federal court system.
The two remaining state court cases are pending in Delaware. However, some plaintiffs in Delaware, Missouri and California have filed motions in efforts to get their cases remanded back to state courts.
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.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings in the Taxotere MDL, it is expected that Judge Engelhardt will establish a “bellwether” process, which will prepare a small group of cases for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if Taxotere settlements are not reached following the coordinated MDL proceedings, hundreds of individual lawsuits may ultimately be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for future trial dates.