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Breast cancer is a devastating disease that affects approximately three million women in the U.S. alone. While chemotherapy treatments can greatly improve a patient’s likelihood of remission, it also causes devastating side effects. For some women who have received chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, the hair loss experienced from chemotherapy is permanent.
Taxotere, manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis, is an anti-mitotic chemotherapy drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996. Since its approval, Taxotere has been approved to treat breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, advanced stomach cancer, head and neck cancer, and prostate cancer.
While Taxotere is believed to be an effective chemotherapy treatment, it has also been linked to permanent hair loss in breast cancer patients. Alternative therapies provide similar if not better efficacy, without the devastating side effect of permanent hair loss, also known as alopecia. Patients are now looking to hold Sanofi-Aventis responsible through product liability lawsuits.
Taxotere belongs to a class of medications called taxanes that are widely used in chemotherapy. Taxotere works by disrupting the microtubule function – essential to the division and multiplication of cells. Taxotere can interrupt the multiplication process, and once cancerous cells can no longer multiply, they die.
A study published in 2012 in the Annals of Oncology found that out of 20 breast cancer patients being treated with Taxotere, 19 experienced permanent hair loss. One patient in the study had been previously treated for breast cancer with another type of chemotherapy and she did not sustain permanent hair loss until treated with Taxotere.
A study funded by Sanofi-Aventis called the GEICAM 9805 found as many as 9.2% of Taxotere patients experienced permanent hair loss, but the company chose not to include a warning about this risk in the product’s labeling.
The first report of permanent hair loss from Taxotere came in 2004. The following year Sanofi-Aventis warned European and Canadian doctors that Taxotere could cause permanent hair loss, but did not warn U.S. patients and doctors. Sanofi-Aventis strengthened its warning again in Europe and Canada in 2012, but still failed to warn doctors in the U.S. It wasn’t until 2015 that American patients were warned of permanent hair loss when the FDA required the drug manufacturer to update the product’s labeling to include information on the risk.
It is estimated as many as 75% of breast cancer patients will be treated with Taxotere, but patients do have other options that are just as effective and don’t cause permanent hair loss. Taxotere became popular in the treatment of breast cancer because it is administered once every three weeks, compared to once a week as with other chemotherapy medications. Taxotere’s convenience comes with a price – the dosage has a much higher potency, which can cause serious side effects.
In addition to permanent hair loss, Taxotere has been linked to several life-threatening side effects. Taxotere can cause severe allergic reactions that require immediate emergency treatment. Taxotere can also cause hepatoxicity, a drug-induced liver injury that has resulted in several deaths.
For women who have beaten breast cancer, permanent hair loss is a constant reminder of their struggle. Pharmaceutical companies like Sanofi-Aventis often put profits before patients, but the attorneys at Raizner Slania have extensive experience fighting large corporations and winning. If you or someone you love suffered permanent hair loss after taking Taxotere, call us today to learn more about your legal options. Our consultations are free and you don’t owe us anything unless we help you recover compensation.