Taxotere and the Risks of Permanent Hair Loss
- Were you or a loved one prescribed Taxotere for chemotherapy treatment after diagnosis of breast cancer?
- Did you or your loved one experience permanent hair loss (lasting at least 6 months after completion of chemotherapy)?
- You may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries.
What is Taxotere?
Taxotere (docetaxel) is a chemotherapy drug used to treat breast cancer, as well as other forms of cancer.
- It was originally manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis.
The drug is part of class of drugs called taxanes and works as an anti-mitotic.
- This means it interferes with cellular division, thus stopping breast cancers.
- Taxotere, like many chemotherapy drugs, is given intravenously.
- Taxotere is typically given with other drugs like cisplatin, fluorouracil, capecitabine, cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin to treat breast cancer and increase patients’ survival rates.
Taxotere Has Been A Huge Money-Maker For Its Manufacturer Sanofi
- Roughly 300,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
- The company made more than $3 billion from Taxotere in 2009 alone. Sanofi no longer has patent protection for the drug, so other companies can offer generic forms.
- Taxotere is a favorite of doctors – being the most prescribed taxane for breast cancer treatment.
- Based on the typical treatment plan, it’s also a favorite of many patients.
Taxotere Is Often Used Despite Its Side Effects
Studies have proven that other taxanes, like paclitaxel (also known as Taxol and Onxol) work just as well with less serious side effects. In fact, lower doses of paclitaxel can achieve the same effects as larger doses of Taxotere.
Despite this fact, Sanofi marketed Taxotere as more effective than paclitaxel.
It is worth noting that Taxotere is more expensive than paclitaxel.
In some ways, Taxotere is more convenient.
- Intravenous infusions of paclitasxel take several hours. In addition, paclitasxel must be given weekly.
- Taxotere infusion lasts only one hour, is administered only once every 3 to 4 weeks. That is why many women often prefer Taxotere, despite its negative side effects.
What is the Problem with Taxotere?
All taxanes in general come with a long list of potential – and often very unpleasant – side effects, including:
- Pain in muscles and joints
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Weakness and fatigue
- Increased risk of infections
- Fluid retention with weight gain, abdominal and/or ankle swelling
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Leukocytopenia (low white blood cell count)
- Sores in the mouth or throat
- Changes in the sense of taste
- Changes in the color of fingernails or toenails
- Peripheral neuropathy (numbness or pain in the extremities, often the feet)
- Hair loss (all hair on the body, head and face)
Taxotere Has Been Linked To Permanent Hair Loss
Unfortunately for some breast cancer patients treated with Taxotere, there is one side effect that is actually disfiguring. Studies have shown a link between Taxotere and permanent hair loss (known as alopecia.)
- This condition has lasted for a decade or longer in roughly 9% of women treated with Taxotere.
Many women are willing to endure temporary hair loss for a chance at beating breast cancer. With other taxanes, there may still be patches of fuzz or random strands of hair left after treatment.
But With Taxotere, Lost Hair Often Never Regrows
Quite often, women who suffer from Taxotere-related alopecia shave their heads, as do many women who are treated with paclitaxel. Again, similar to other women who deal with chemotherapy-related temporary hair loss, those with Taxotere-related alopecia seek out ways to hide their baldness, such as:
- Expensive hair implants of the type usually used to treat male pattern baldness
Most Insurance Companies Do Not Cover These “Remedies”
Many insurance companies will not pay for wigs and other steps needed to deal with permanent hair loss caused by taxotere.
This leaves women who have fought – and beat – a deadly disease and who may have exhausted their financial resources due to treatment and co-pays to cover these expenses themselves. While there is some help for lower-income women, such as the National Alopecia Areata Foundation that operates a special fund to buy wigs for women who can’t afford them, there is a limit to the sources of help available.
Taxotere-Related Alopecia (Hair Loss) Is A Disfiguring Condition
The reality is that because of a strong media focus on how women should look and what makes women attractive, Taxotere-related alopecia can cause serious psychological trauma.
Many women no longer feel attractive and many lose their spouses who can’t deal with the alopecia. This serious negative impact on body image can lead to depression, distress and a significant reduction in the quality of the breast cancer survivors’ lives.
Not only do women who suffer from Taxotere-related alopecia deal with these difficult after-effects, permanent hair loss is not only a cosmetic issue. Every day, these brave women must look in the mirror and constantly be reminded of their battle with breast cancer. They are robbed of the chance to “move on,” to have closure and return to their normal lives.
Studies Showing A Link Between Taxotere And Permanent Hair Loss (Alopecia)
Several studies, one sponsored by Sanofi, showed a link between Taxotere and permanent hair loss:
GEICAM 9805 Study
In the late 1990s, a study was sponsored by Sanofi (Taxotere’s Manufacturer).
By 2005, this study showed that 9.2% of women treated with Taxotere suffered permanent alopecia.
Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers Study Of Taxotere’s Effects
In 2006, Dr. Scot Sedlacek from the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers showed similar results to the GEICAM 9805 study:
Taxotere could cause over 6% of patients to suffer permanent hair loss.
Lemieux Taxotere Study
In 2008, hemato-oncologist Dr. Julie Lemieux and her colleagues published a review of 38 articles dealing with the effects hair loss had on breast cancer patients.
The review examined issues such as quality of life as it related to body image, distress, anxiety, social functioning, sexuality, the ability to go back to work and self-esteem.
The results of this review showed that “hair loss consistently ranked amongst the most troublesome side effects, was described as distressing, and may affect the body image.”
Annals of Oncology Study of Taxotere
A 2012 study by Klugel et al. tracked 20 breast cancer patients being treated with Taxotere. Every patient suffered permanent alopecia and all attempts at treating the condition were unsuccessful. The best outcomes were sparse, clumpy and incomplete hair regrowth.
When the authors compared the study participants to a healthy population of women, they found that the study participants exhibited “significant impairment” of the quality of their lives. Results showed that 40% of the participants suffered “severe impairment.”
Roughly 70% of the study participants covered their heads with scarves or wigs.
One woman went so far as to tell the authors that “‘she would have preferred not to receive any chemotherapy for her breast cancer’ rather than being affected by such a distressing and permanent side-effect.”
Cancer Treatment Reviews Comparison of Taxotere And Paclitaxel
A study published in Cancer Treatment Reviews examined the differences in effectiveness and safety of Taxotere and paclitaxel.
The study showed that Taxotere treatment didn’t have any better results or benefits than paclitaxel. It also showed that patients often became resistant to Taxotere, which meant their doctors had to continually prescribe higher, more toxic doses.
In 2008, the nonprofit BreastCancer.org published a study in 2008 showing that more than 89% of the 5,000 participants who were treated with Taxol had a higher rate of survival than those who received Taxotere.
U.S. Food And Drug Administration (FDA) And Taxotere’s Risk of Permanent Hair Loss
In December 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning via a safety information page disclosing the risk of permanent hair loss related to breast cancer treatment with Taxotere. Some women allege that Sanofi knew of the risk and warned other countries about it much earlier than 2015.
Taxotere and Permanent Hair Loss Lawsuits
Sanofi Has No Good Answer For Women Who Have Permanent Hair Loss From Their Use of Taxotere
A lawsuit filed in March 2016 alleges that the company issued warnings to health care providers and breast cancer patients in Europe as far back as 2005 and those in Canada in 2012.
However, Sanofi remained silent on the issue in the U.S. until about a month after the FDA’s warning. In fact, an article was published in the Globe and Mail in Canada in March 2010 reporting on women’s attempts to get an answer from Sanofi on why it hid the risk of Taxotere-related alopecia.
Lawsuits Against Sanofi For Hair Loss Injuries Caused By Its Product Taxotere
Several lawsuits have been filed against Sanofi alleging that the company knew of the risk of Taxotere-related alopecia and withheld the information from health care providers and patients.
The plaintiffs also allege that Sanofi lied by telling the public that the hair loss was not permanent. Other allegations include:
- Selling Taxotere without proper testing
- Failure to determine Taxotere’s safety
- Making a dangerous drug
- Downplaying the risks associated with Taxotere treatment
Multi-District Litigation For Taxotere’s Hair Loss Injuries
A Multi-District Litigation (MDL) combines the lawsuits of different people hurt in the same way. By handling all of the pre-trial proceedings (discovery, etc.) in the lawsuits at one time, they save money and avoid the risk of contradictory pre-trial decisions.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) issued an order On October 4, 2016 that consolidated these lawsuits into a multi-district litigation.
- The MDL is being handled in the Eastern District of Louisiana, Judge Lance M. Africk presiding.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with permanent alopecia related to Taxotere treatment for breast cancer, now is the time to seek legal assistance.
You need experienced attorneys on your side.
An Austin Personal Injury Law Firm That Knows What You’re Up Against
Taxotere Injury Lawsuits Can Be Very Complex to Prove
Winning a mass tort lawsuit for injuries caused by dangerous pharmaceuticals usually involves proving that the manufacturers did not properly warn people taking it of the potential risks.
That can include investigating medical studies, corporate publications and using testimony from experts on how the medication caused an injury. This is not easily done, particularly when drug companies show up with an army of lawyers.
But battling bullies is what Justinian & Associates does.
We Are Warriors For The Injured
The legal team at Justinian and Associates has years of experience dealing with cases like Taxotere.
We have the knowledge, experience, resources and trained investigators to take on large adversaries like billion dollar pharmaceutical companies.
All we do is fight for injured victims. Our only goal is justice for our clients, whatever that means for them. And we do not accept defeat. Unless we get you money for your injuries, you don’t pay us a dime.
The Time to Act is Now
Your rights can be lost if you wait.
There are laws that limit how much time you have to file a lawsuit after being injured. They are known as statutes of limitation. They may apply to your lawsuit to recover for your Taxotere injuries. The countdown may already have begun.
The statute of limitations (how long you have to file a case) may already be counting down. Don’t let it expire!
Call, text or email us for a free consultation, with no obligation. Speak to an Austin personal injury attorney from Justinian & Associates (not a “screener” or paralegal) to understand your rights.