Taxotere Lawsuit Filed Over Disfiguring Hair Loss Long After Chemotherapy Treatment

Yet another lawsuit has been filed over the side effects of Taxotere, a breast cancer drug that has been linked to many reports of permanent hair loss that continues long after chemotherapy treatment, indicating that the manufacturer failed to disclose the risk or that the medication was no more effective than other breast cancer drugs that do not cause on-going hair problems. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed against Sanofi-Aventis by Angela Jones on April 20, in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Mississippi.

Jones indicates that she was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma of the right breast in January 2012. She underwent a mastectomy, but the cancer reoccurred in her left breast in March 2014, causing her to undergo another mastectomy and then chemotherapy involving Taxotere.

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As a result of the chemotherapy, Jones suffered hair loss, known as alopecia, but the hair did not regrow in the months following treatment. Jones indicates that she did not recognize the link between the permanent hair loss and Taxotere until this year, indicating that the manufacturer has withheld information about reports involving Taxotere alopecia that may continue long after chemotherapy treatment.

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.

According to the complaint, Sanofi-Aventis not only withheld information about the risk of permanent Taxotere hair loss, but also made false and misleading statements to doctors about the efficacy of their drug, even though studies suggested that it led to no better outcomes than alternative treatments, which have not been linked to reports of permanent alopecia.

“As a direct result of Defendants’ wrongful and deceptive acts, thousands of women were exposed to the risk of disfiguring permanent alopecia without any warning and without any additional benefit,” the lawsuit notes. “Defendants prayed on one of the most vulnerable groups of individuals at the most difficult time in their lives. Defendants obtained billions of dollars in increased revenues at the expense of unwary cancer victims simply hoping to survive their condition and return to a normal life.”

For women, Taxotere hair loss can be 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.

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 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.

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