Cancer survivors who were prescribed Taxotere by their oncologist could suffer permanent hair loss. Hair loss, called Alopecia, is expected when taking a chemotherapy drug. However, a cancer victim’s hair typically regrows within three or four months after stopping the chemotherapy regimen. Survivors who took Taxotere could suffer a different fate and never grow their hair back, or, if it does regrow, is very different from the hair they once knew. Especially for women, the inability to regrow their natural hair has a tremendously adverse effect on their self-esteem, mental health, and diminishes their quality of life overall.
Big drug companies and physicians are well aware of the damage Taxotere can cause, and yet the drug remains a component of an oncologist’s treatment program.Taxotere is a potent drug that can cause permanent disfigurement. For some survivors, they might have been in a remission stage for years; they still look like they are a cancer patient.If you or a loved one suffered permanent Alopecia as a result of taking Taxotere, they might be entitled to substantial financial compensation for their loss.
Taxotere is the brand name for the drug docetaxel. Docetaxel can be administered by an injection or by an intravenous infusion. Physicians prescribe it to patients who suffer from breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer. Apparently, these are potentially fatal diseases and must be treated with powerful anti-cancer drugs like Taxotere.
Possible Side Effects and Risks
One would expect that drugs which attack and kill cancer cells like Taxotere come with many potential side effects. Physicians and drug companies alert cancer patients to the potential for:
- Upset stomach and possible vomiting;
- Intestinal problems like constipation or diarrhea;
- Structural issues like weakness, fatigue, and soreness;
- Fingernail and toenail deformities; and
- Temporary Hair Loss.
The drug warnings do not mention anything about the possibility that if you take the drug, you will never look the same again. Surviving cancer is a blessing but deforming patients without warning them first is inexcusable. Now, the Food and Drug Administration now requires drug companies to warn their patients about the possibility that they will lose their hair-forever by mandating Sanofi to change their label to reflect the possibility of permanent hair loss.
Before the FDA mandate, Sanofi never mentioned permanent hair loss in the literature supporting Taxotere. In fact, the drug manufacturer claimed that the patient’s hair would grow back in a short period after ceasing the medication. The warnings do clearly state that hair loss is not limited to a person’s head. The toxicity of the drug affects all of the hair follicles on a person’s body. Therefore, people’s eyebrows, pubic hair, underarm hair, and eyelashes fall out.
Drug Manufacturer Knew All Along
Evidence exists to suggest that the primary manufacturer of Taxotere, Sanofi-Aventis knew about the risk of permanent Alopecia for almost a decade. As far back as 2008, Sanofi acknowledged that Alopecia leading to permanent hair loss after ingesting docetaxel was more than remote. Sanofi admitted that seven patients who took the drug suffered from Alopecia more than five years after they completed the course of the drug. Sanofi refused to release any additional information after they acknowledged the study.
Other studies which were conducted on a smaller scale yielded similar results. Researchers conducted these studies in Europe and found that 6.3 percent of patients prescribed Taxotere suffered permanent hair loss. According to the health agencies in the United Kingdom, 6.3 percent represented a significant number of people and therefore should be described as a side effect that occurs frequently.
New England Journal of Medicine Study
In the United States, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that discussed whether docetaxel was a worthwhile drug. The study also discusses the possible effects of toxicity from the drug. In that study, nearly 97 percent of the participants lost their hair. However, many did not regrow it. The studies also indicate that docetaxel is highly toxic and the benefits to taking the drug are at times outweighed by the potential dangers. It all depends on the patient’s prognosis and their tolerance for risk.At least one additional study demonstrated that over 9 percent of all Taxotere patients will lose their hair permanently.
Why Hair Loss Matters
Many womenassociates their hairstyle with their identity. Oncologists say that losing hair is tougher on a woman than a man because of a woman’s tendency to so strongly associate their identity as a person with their hair. Hair loss, therefore, is one of the most troubling and challenging side effects a person going through chemotherapy experience.
Some women try to take control of the situation. They buy wigs, make handmadeheadscarves, or choose to go bald. One breast cancer survivor said that knowing you cannot control hair loss is a frightening prospect, especially when you lose control over so many aspects of your life at the same time. Cancer takes many of the opportunities life presents to you, and a cancer victim’s body significantly changes. But, the one thing to which women look forward with great anticipation is the return of their hair.
Hair follicles begin to regrow and strengthen with time once the body has cleared the chemicals it needed to combat cancer cells. However, hair regrowth is slow. Hair tends to return and perhaps a different color initially. A survivor’s hair typically returns to its natural state with the passage of time.
Taxotere victims do not have the luxury of time. With each passing day, a Taxotere victim’s psyche deteriorates. Their declining self-worth can lead to anxiety and depression, which, in turn, can cause difficulties in relationships, employment, and create additional health complications. The lack of hair robs them of their femininity.
A woman who survived cancer need not be merely thankful she survived, no matter what the cost. This is where Sanofi-Aventis got it wrong. The drug manufacturer simply assumed that people would be grateful just to survive that not having the ability to regrow hair was a mere inconvenience. That sentiment might to true to a certain extent if women had no options regarding their chemotherapy treatments.
Today, women have several alternatives to docetaxel for their chemotherapy treatments which are as effective as Taxotere. If there were none, then Sanofi-Aventis might have a leg on which to stand. But they do not. Sanofi-Aventis had a duty to warn consumers that the drug had a dangerous side effect and failed to do so. That willful failure on the part of Sanofi left people permanently scarred and disfigured. The women never had the chance to make an informed decision. Patients have a right to make an informed decision, also known as informed consent, about the possible side effects they might suffer.
The studies mentioned above and even Sanofi-Aventis’ comments place the blame squarely on the company. The evidence suggests that they knew or should have known that their product might have the potential to scar their consumer permanently. As a result, Sanofi-Aventis should be held responsible for their actions.
Where to Turn for Help
Parker Waichman LLP is a national law firm who stands ready to fight for you. Call Parker Waichman LLP to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your claim, or more convenient you can fill out our online form. Time is of the essence, and any delay in contacting us could cause you to give up your rights forever. Do not delay. Call Parker Waichman LLP today at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) and speak with one of our experienced Taxotere lawyers about your rights.