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Taxotere Hair Loss Claims Must be Reported for Eligibility in Any Future Settlement: Court

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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Taxotere hair loss lawsuits is requiring that all claims be identified and reported on a rolling basis, so that they may be eligible for participation in any future settlement program to resolve cases brought by women nationwide.

There are currently about 1,500 product liability lawsuits pending against Sanofi-Aventis, over failure to warn women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer about the risk that they may be left permanent hair loss due to side effects of Taxotere, which has not been associated with other equally effective treatment options.

Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established coordinated pretrial proceedings last year, centralizing all Taxotere claims before U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt in the Eastern District of Louisiana as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

Although hair loss is a known and accepted part of chemotherapy, women nationwide are pursuing financial compensation due to false and misleading statements made by the makers of Taxotere, which suggested that hair would regrow following treatment, according to the lawsuits.

Plaintiffs maintain that if they had been informed about the link between Taxotere and permanent hair loss, they would have elected to receive other breast cancer treatments, which are proven to be equally as effective and do not carry the risk of disfiguring hair problems.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings in the Taxotere MDL, Judge Engelhardt has established a “bellwether” process, during which a small group of cases are being prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the litigation.

However, in July, Judge Engelhardt ordered parties involved in the litigation to participate in a Taxotere settlement conference next summer, before the first case is expected to go to trial in September 2018.

In a pretrial order (PDF) issued on September 7, all attorneys and law firms participating in the Taxotere MDL were ordered to provide a report to the court on any individuals with potential hair loss claims, even if they are not yet filed in court.

The order indicates that identifying and reporting the Taxotere hair loss claims is a requirement for eligibility in any settlement program, calling for initial information to be submitted to the Court by September 30, 2017. However, as additional Taxotere claims are identified, lawyers are required to update their filing, and must ensure that all data and information is current at the end of each quarter.

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 claims 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 risk of long-term hair loss from Taxotere for years, 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.

If Taxotere settlements or another resolution for the litigation is not reached following the bellwether trials in the MDL, each individual case pending before Judge Engelhardt may eventually be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial date.

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