Motion Seeks MDL for Taxotere Lawsuits Over Hair Loss Problems
With a growing number of Taxotere lawsuits being filed throughout the federal court system, each involving common allegations that women were left with permanent hair loss following use of the breast cancer drug, a motion has been filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) seeking to centralize the cases before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
Taxotere (docetaxel) is a high potency taxane-based cancer drug, which was introduced by Sanofi-Aventis in 1996. While it was promoted as superior to existing low potency taxanes, such as Taxol, complaints filed by women who have suffered hair loss problems from Taxotere allege that the drug is no more effective, yet carries a substantial risk of permanent alopecia, which is not seen with alternative breast cancer treatments.
While hair loss, or alopecia, is a common side effect of chemotherapy, it is usually temporary. However, dozens of lawsuits filed nationwide indicate that Sanofi-Aventis provided false and misleading information that suggested hair would regrow following Taxotere treatments.
In a motion to transfer (PDF) filed on July 22, plaintiffs Veronica Smith and Kelly Gahan ask the U.S. JPML to conslidate all of the Taxotere cases pending in U.S. District Courts nationwide as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
According to the request, there are currently at least 33 complaints filed in 16 different federal courts nationwide. However, as Taxotere hair loss lawyers continue to review and file claims for women throughout the U.S., it is expected that the number of lawsuits involved in the litigation will increase dramatically in the coming months and years.
The motion indicates that centralization would promote efficiency, prevent duplicate discovery into common issues in the litigation and help avoid contradictory pretrial rulings from different judges. The plaintiffs propose that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana would be the appropriate venue, where five of the cases are currently pending.
Taxotere Hair Loss Problems
Each of the complaints involved in the Taxotere litigation raise similar questions of fact and law, according to the motion filed with the U.S. JPML.
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, providing false and misleading information to the medical community in the United States. However, in several other countries, Taxotere warnings have been updated to include information about the risk of permanent hair, but the same information was not provided to American women and doctors.
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.
“As a result of using Taxotere, plaintiffs in all pending actions, including Movants, have suffered permanent alopecia (‘hair loss’),” the motion states. “Now, having overcome breast cancer and the concomitant indignities of the disease as well as the treatment and all that it entails, Movants — and all women impacted — are forced to live their lives with significant degrees of hair loss, forever.”
The U.S. JPML is likely to schedule oral arguments for the motion during upcoming hearings scheduled for September 29 in Washington, D.C., or December 1 in Charlotte, NC.
If the cases are centralized before one judge for coordinated discovery and 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 trials in courts throughout the U.S.
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