Last updated: May 22, 2018
If you have permanent hair loss or alopecia after taking Taxotere (docetaxel), contact our Taxotere lawyers for a free and confidential consultation. Call my office at (215) 948-2718, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the contact form below. We are filing Taxotere lawsuits for cancer survivors across the country, including women who took Taxotere to treat breast cancer.
This page answers frequently asked questions about Taxotere lawsuits, including
- Why Are Cancer Survivors Suing Over Taxotere Hair Loss?
- How Many Taxotere Lawsuits Have Been Filed?
- Which Taxotere Lawyers Are Filing Them?
- What Are The Taxotere Settlement Amounts?
- Does Taxotere Cause Permanent Hair Loss?
- What Does Taxotere Do?
Why Are Cancer Survivors Suing Over Taxotere Hair Loss?
Like most drug lawsuits, the Taxotere lawsuits involve a legal claim called “failure to warn.” The plaintiffs in the Taxotere lawsuits allege that the drug company which makes Taxotere, Sanofi-Aventis, did not warn patients that they could suffer permanent hair loss from taking Taxotere. The original prescribing information for Taxotere claimed:
“Loss of hair occurs in most patients taking Taxotere (including the hair on your head, underarm hair, pubic hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes). Hair loss will begin after the first few treatments and varies from patient to patient. Once you have completed all your treatments, hair generally grows back.”
That was false. Since at least 2005, scientific literature has repeatedly shown that Taxotere causes permanent alopecia. Despite all of that scientific evidence, it wasn’t until December 2015 that Sanofi-Aventis updated the prescribing label to say “cases of permanent hair loss have been reported.” We do not believe that warning is sufficient, either.
Hair loss can cause serious mental and emotional harm in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Hair loss in general has been shown to cause “loss of self-confidence, low self-esteem and heightened self-consciousness.” Alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, and androgenic alopecia have all been shown to cause a substantial drop in psychological quality-of-life measurements, regardless of the severity of the hair loss. The effect is even more pronounced in cancer survivors. Women with breast cancer have repeatedly identified hair loss as one of the most distressing side effects of breast cancer treatment, affecting anxiety and distress, body image, sexuality, self-esteem, social functioning, and the ability to return to work. Even as of Summer 2018, many websites for cancer survivors, like this one, say only that “hair generally starts to regrow soon after treatment is completed” which isn’t true for all patients.
How Many Taxotere Lawsuits Have Been Filed?
Like most nationwide drug lawsuits, the Taxotere lawsuits were “consolidated” by the federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). That means that, for all the pre-trial proceedings, like the gathering of documents, the taking of corporate testimony under oath, and the court’s evaluation of expert witnesses, a single court is handling all of these issues. That court is the Eastern District of Louisiana, where the cases are being heard by Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt. In January 2017, the JPML confirmed that all cases involving Taxotere, including cases against a generic manufacturer of docetaxel (like Sandoz and Hospira), are to be heard in that court. As of May 2018, there were 8,557 Taxotere lawsuits filed in that court. Taxotere lawyers have also filed a petition to create a mass tort action in New Jersey state court, where there are over 350 pending cases.
This “consolidated” process is far better than a class action lawsuit. In a class action lawsuit, the clients lose control of their own cases. In a consolidated lawsuit, although some general matters are heard together, each client can control their own case, such as deciding whether or not to settle.
Which Taxotere Lawyers Are Filing Them?
Lawyers across the country are filing these cases. I have seen cases filed by lawyers in Pennsylvania, California, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois, Texas, and Oklahoma. In a nationwide drug lawsuit like the Taxotere cases, the location of the lawyer doesn’t matter. The firms that focus on drug lawsuits like these handle cases across the country.
What Are The Taxotere Settlement Amounts?
There have been no reported Taxotere settlements, and thus no settlement amount that could be used as a guide to predict the value of a particular case. That is not unusual: it is rare for drug lawsuits to be settled before there have been any jury trials.
Does Taxotere Cause Permanent Hair Loss?
The “GEICAM 9805” clinical trial, which focused on Taxotere for node-negative breast cancer patients, began in 1998. By 2005, it was clear that a significant number of woman continued to have substantial hair loss for years after using Taxotere. Beginning in 2009, other researchers began publishing reports of “irreversible and severe alopecia following docetaxel,” “permanent chemotherapy-induced alopecia,” and “permanent alopecia after systemic chemotherapy.”* One of those reports included a story similar to what we hear from our clients:
Two weeks after the start of her chemotherapy she began to lose the hair on her scalp, as well as her eyebrows, eyelashes, and body hair. By the completion of her chemotherapy, she was completely bald. She did experience some regrowth, but her hair remained severely thin, requiring use of a scalp prosthesis.
In 2012, researchers published in the Annals of Oncology a prospective study of 20 women taking Taxotere for breast cancer therapy, and found “no spontaneous regrowth of the scalp hair.” No hair growth treatment seemed to help: not minoxidil, biotin, vitamin B6, phytotherapy, psoralen, ultraviolet, nor spironolactone. As the researchers concluded in discussing the timing of Taxotere hair loss,
“All the patients showed a strikingly similar clinical presentation, with hair loss within 2 weeks of the first FEC cycle and maintained until the end of docetaxel cycles. Hair regrowth occurred within 4-6 months but was clearly incomplete. It was marked by thinning hairs and absence of fibrosis leaving a characteristic aspect of scalp alopecia predominating over the crown with an androgenetic hair loss pattern, almost always associated with eyebrow and eyelash hair loss.”
Scientists do not agree on why Taxotere causes permanent alopecia. The scientific hypotheses include potential toxic damage to stem cells, damage to the hair bulb, disturbance of signaling pathways, and endocrine dysfunctions.
How Common Is Taxotere Permanent Hair Loss?
Different studies have shown different rates of hair loss. The biggest problem is one of follow-up: many times, studies did not follow-up with women after they completed Taxotere to see if their hair grew back. Other times, doctors did not take the hair loss seriously and so did not report it. In 2015, researches sent out questionnaires to over one hundred women who had taken Taxotere for breast cancer and asked them about their hair loss. 15.8% reported significant scalp hair loss, and 10% did not directly answer the question. More than two dozen patients reported that they were wearing a wig, a topper, or hair extensions, or that they had no regrowth of eyebrows, eyelashes, nostril hair, hair on the legs, or hair in the pubic area. Recent evidence suggests it is not due to a direct androgen action, because there are no changes in androgen levels. Some studies suggest that the hair loss can potentially be reduced by the use of a scalp cooling device, although those studies are still in their early stages and it didn’t work for all patients.
What Does Taxotere Do?
Taxotere (docetaxel) is an intravenous chemotherapy agent given at the hospital to patients with breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, hormone refractory prostate cancer, gastric adenocarcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck cancer. Although every type of cancer is different, and every patient’s cancer is different, at the most basic level cancer is an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in the body. Taxotere works by interfering with the way that cells divide. Specifically, Taxotere binds to tubulin, which cells use to build their structure. That binding produces additional microtubule bundle, which in turn prevent the nucleus of the cell from dividing. (You can read more of my scientific theories about cancer in this post.)
Taxotere, like most chemotherapy drugs, causes a wide range of side effects, including neutropenia, febrile neutropenia, infection, stomatitis, fatigue, myalgia, neuropathy, shortness of breath, fever, decreased appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Most side effects, however, are temporary, with the exception of anaphylaxis or other extreme reactions.
When it comes to breast cancer, Taxotere is part of the “TAC” regime, Taxotere, Adriamycin, and Cytoxan, one of eight standard chemotherapy regimes (read more about other chemotherapy options here). A closely-related regime is the “FAC,” which simply replaces Taxotere with fluorouracil. The other regimes do not involve Taxotere at all. Indeed, a head-to-head trial in 2008 found that Taxol (paclitaxel) was more effective than Taxotere.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued two warnings to the manufacturer of Taxotere over its marketing. In 2002, the FDA warned the company over its promotion of Taxotere for non-small cell lung cancer. In 2009, the FDA warned the company over its promotions for the use of Taxotere for breast cancer and lung cancer, saying that the commercials “misleadingly overstate the survival benefits of Taxotere and imply that survival depends on treatment with Taxotere, while also minimizing the serious and potentially life-threatening risks associated with the drug.” Additionally, a former salesperson for the company that makes Taxotere alleged in a whistleblower lawsuit that Taxotere was illegally marketed as a first-line treatment for breast cancer, and that the manufacturer of Taxotere used “kickbacks” with doctors to encourage them to prescribe it. In January 2017, the federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied the defendants’ request to dismiss the case, and it is still ongoing.