The chemotherapy drug Taxotere has been on the market since 1996. But according to a recent spate of lawsuits, the drug’s manufacturer only recently began warning patients of the possibility of permanent hair loss.
Plaintiffs have filed multiple product liability claims against Taxotere maker Sanofi-Aventis. The claims allege that the drug maker failed to warn patients that the drug is more likely than equally effective chemotherapy treatments to result in permanent hair loss.
Millions of patients have received treatment with Taxotere for breast cancer and other types of malignancies. However, a warning about the possibility of permanent alopecia, or hair loss, was only added in December 2015.
What Conditions Does Taxotere Treat?
Taxotere, whose generic name is docetaxel, originally was approved as a treatment for breast cancer in 1996. Since then, the FDA has approved the drug for treating other cancers, including those of the head and neck, lungs, prostate and stomach.
The drug works by interfering with the proliferation and spread of cancer cells through the body. When used as indicated as an approved cancer treatment, the drug is injected by a medical professional into a vein with an IV, and treatment typically is administered every three weeks. In some cases, additional cancer medications are given at the same time.
For some patients, an oral steroid medication is also necessary to prevent side effects of Taxotere. The steroid typically is given approximately 12 to 24 hours before a treatment with Taxotere and may be necessary for a day or two after treatment concludes.
Important Information to Know Before Taxotere Treatment
Individuals who have ever had a serious allergic reaction either to docetaxel or to medications containing polysorbate 80, and those whose white blood cell count is low, are advised not to take Taxotere. Pregnant women also should not take the drug, as it can harm unborn babies.
Women of childbearing age should use birth control to avoid pregnancy as they undergo treatment with Taxotere, and they should follow instructions from their doctor about avoiding pregnancy once treatment is complete. Women should not breast-feed a baby while they undergo treatment with Taxotere; possible effects on a nursing baby are unknown.
In addition, patients who do undergo treatment with the drug should:
- Inform their doctor of their medical history, including any medications used.
- Ask their doctor about their specific risk of developing other types of cancer; use of the drug may increase risk.
- Alert their medical professional if they feel pain, swelling or burning around the injection site.
- Wash skin immediately with soap and water if it comes into contact with Taxotere, which can harm skin.
- Have blood tested often to detect a decrease in infection-fighting white blood cells; test results may delay cancer treatments.
- Have their vision checked if they experience vision problems while undergoing treatment.
What Are the Side Effects?
Use of Taxotere can result in a number of side effects, including death. The risk of death increases when patients take high doses of the drug or if they suffer from liver disease or non-small cell lung cancer and have undergone certain types of chemotherapy in the past. The drug also can cause a serious allergic reaction whose symptoms include a red skin rash; hives; trouble breathing; swelling of the lips, tongue, throat or face; or feelings of possibly passing out.
Additional common side effects from Taxotere may include:
- Serious skin reactions.
- Weight gain.
- Fluid retention that results in swelling of the lower legs, feet, fingers, hands, face or stomach.
- Diarrhea or nausea.
- Burning, pain, numbness or tingling in the extremities.
- Weakness and fatigue.
When Should You Contact an Attorney?
If you’re a current or past cancer patient who has experienced long-term hair loss following chemotherapy treatment with Taxotere, you may be entitled to compensation for damages, including emotional distress. In addition, you may be entitled to compensation if you have suffered other health effects or harm from taking the drug, including side effects that may not have been reported yet to the Food and Drug Administration.
In two recent lawsuits, the plaintiffs alleged that they experienced ongoing, permanent hair loss since undergoing Taxotere therapy for the treatment of breast cancer. In both cases, the plaintiffs noted that they were led to believe that their hair loss would be temporary.
The drug’s maker, Sanofi-Aventis, advised patients, regulatory agencies and medical professionals in some countries that the drug increases the risk of permanent, disfiguring hair loss but withheld the information in the United States, the lawsuits allege. In addition, the plaintiffs charge that the current warnings still use vague and misleading language indicating that hair usually grows back.
If you have undergone chemotherapy with Taxotere and believe that you have suffered adverse health effects — including permanent hair loss — because of it, it’s important to consult with a knowledgeable attorney. For a personal consultation, contact the personal injury law attorneys at Meinhart, Smith, & Manning, PLLC, at (877) 776-1219.