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Update: California Woman Alleges Permanent Hair Loss from Taxotere
December 1, 2016 – A breast cancer survivor in California has filed a products liability lawsuit against Sanofi-Aventis alleging that Taxotere caused her to suffer permanent alopecia. Plaintiff Mary Gardner of Los Angeles was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in 2009 and battled the disease for over 3 years, including undergoing chemo with Taxotere. Although Gardner eventually overcame her illness, she developed permanent hair loss as a result of treatment with the drug, according to the lawsuit.
What is Taxotere?
Taxotere (docetaxel) injection concentrate belongs to a class of chemotherapy medications called plant alkaloids that work by attacking cancer cells during various phases of division. The drug is used to treat breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, hormone refractory prostate cancer, gastric adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma of the head, and neck cancer. Each infusion of Taxotere typically takes about an hour every 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the type of cancer being treated. Taxotere is made by Sanofi-Aventis, and was first approved by the FDA in October 2006.
What’s the Problem?
While Taxotere has demonstrated considerable effectiveness as a chemo treatment, the drug has been increasingly link to permanent hair loss (alopecia). Plaintiffs in Taxotere lawsuits allege that while the medication’s labeling has suggested that some degree of hair loss was possible, there was no warning that this potential side effect could be permanent. These patients claim that had they known the true risks of Taxotere, they would have chosen to undergo treatment with Taxol (generic: paclitaxel), another chemotherapy drug which does not cause permanent hair loss.
Taxotere Labeling Updated With Alopecia Warning
In December 2015, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Taxotere labels would be updated with a warning about permanent alopecia after the condition was reported in numerous cancer patients treated with the drug. Prior to the warning, Taxotere’s labeling stated that “hair generally grows back” after finishing chemotherapy treatment and discontinuing use of the drug.
Taxotere Alopecia Studies
Sanofi’s own studies have suggested that at least 3% of cancer patients treated with Taxotere suffered persistent or permanent hair loss. However, an independent study conducted in 2006 found that upwards of 6.3% of breast cancer patients succeeded in growing back less than 50% of their hair after undergoing treatment with Taxotere. A subsequent study published by the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) in 2013 found permanent alopecia as a side effect in 10-15% of patients who used Taxotere.
Why Does Chemotherapy Cause Hair Loss?
Chemotherapy drugs like Taxotere attack rapidly growing cancer cells. Unfortunately, this same mechanism of action affects normal cells in the body – including those in the hair roots. Hair follicles, the structures in the skin that make hair, are some of the fastest-growing cells in the human body. Normally, hair follicles divide every 23 to 72 hours; however, as the chemo does its work against cancer cells, it also destroys hair cells. Within 2 to 4 weeks of starting chemotherapy, patients may lose some or all of their hair. Hair loss may occur gradually or very quickly in clumps. Although hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy medications, permanent alopecia is not. This side effect has only been linked to Taxotere.
Why was Canada Warned About Decatxil Hair Loss Problems Before FDA?
Taxotere has also been reported to cause cancer patients permanent hair loss in Canada, and that country has seen its share of lawsuits filed over the drug. However, Sanofi warned Canadian health officials about the problem in 2012, but waited until December 2015 to warn the FDA. It is still unclear why this occurred.
Yet even despite this earlier warning, it was too late for Cynthia MacGregor of Montreal, who told The Globe and Mail in March 2010 that “I had a normal head of hair and I am now completely bald.” After undergoing treatment for breast cancer with Taxotere, MacGregor was diagnosed with alopecia universalis, a complete loss of all body hair. When she goes out, people stare at her. “It’s devastating,” she said.
MacGregor is one of 3 Canadians who stepped forward to report Taxotere hair loss to Health Canada, which led to an investigation. The Globe and Mail reported that approximately 10,000 cancer patients in that country – including some 6,500 women with breast cancer – underwent treatment with Taxotere in 2009. One oncologist stated that she gives her patients the choice of 12 cycles of Taxol with a “tiny” risk of permanent alopecia, or 4 cycles of Taxotere and an increased risk of the same side effect: fewer chemo treatments, but with a greater risk of permanent hair loss.
Mississippi Woman Files Taxotere Lawsuit Over Permanent Hair Loss
June 17, 2016 – A woman from Mississippi who permanently lost her hair after undergoing chemo with Taxotere has filed a products liability lawsuit (PDF) against Sanofi-Aventis. The plaintiff, Christine Tolefree, was diagnosed with cancer in her right breast in May 2014. When discussing treatment, she was never warned her about the risk of permanent hair loss from Taxotere, according to the suit (Case No. 3:16-cv-00412).
Do I have a Taxotere Hair Loss Lawsuit?
The Pharmaceutical Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Taxotere lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new cases in all 50 states.
Free Confidential Case Evaluation: Again, if you or a loved one developed permanent hair loss or baldness from Taxotere, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit and our lawyers can help.