- People who have recently undergone chemotherapy with Taxotere as the chemotherapy agent, and are now losing hair.
- Barbara Earnest v Sanofi-Aventis: The court decided in favor of the defendant, Sanofi.
- Hattie Carson v Sanofi-Aventis: On January 22, 2016, the jury agreed on a suitable settlement for Hattie’s suffering.
- Amy Dodson v Sanofi-Aventis: Amy recovered compensatory damages for her alopecia
Sanofi-Aventis is a French pharmaceutical company, born in 2004 after a merger between Sanofi and Aventis. The firm is the fifth largest pharmaceutical firm in the whole world and has a wide array of drugs and medicines to its name. It is also the world’s largest vaccine producer. However, a few years ago, Sanofi-Aventis was the subject of a huge scandal regarding one of its drugs, Taxotere.
Taxotere is an anti-cancer or cytotoxic drug approved for people undergoing chemotherapy. Taxotere belongs to the class of drugs called taxanes, which are derived from plants, and are used as effective chemotherapy agents. Taxotere is usually prescribed to patients of breast cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, lung cancer, and head and neck cancer.
This drug is usually administered by doctors who are supervising the chemotherapy. The drug has no pill-form; it is only available as an intravenous injection. The dosage depends on a number of factors, including height, weight, age of the patient, as well as the type and stage of the cancer that is being treated.
The active compound in Taxotere is docetaxel. Docetaxel is a chemotherapy drug that targets and kills cancer cells, curbing the growth and spread of the dangerous cancer cells in the body. Initially only approved for the treatment of breast cancer, Taxotere is now also accepted as a chemotherapy agent for cancers of the prostate, lung, stomach, head, and neck. Investigations are also underway to ascertain if the drug is safe to be used for patients of ovarian, bladder, and pancreatic cancers, melanoma, and sarcoma.
Taxotere is contraindicated in people who:
- Are hypersensitive, allergic, or have a family history of allergies to docetaxel and other related compounds. People who are allergic to it have suffered through anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that may even result in death.
- Have a neutrophil (a type of white blood cells that fights against infections) count of less than 1500 cells/mm3
Even people who are not contraindicated for Taxotere have to be careful when using the drug because it can have some severe side effects. Though it is not a given that everybody who uses the drug will experience the side effects, it largely depends on the dosage that is prescribed to the patients.
Most of these side-effects are mentioned clearly on Taxotere’s label, and the patients are educated about the risks before being prescribed the medicine. Pregnant and breast-feeding women are advised not to take the drug, and women who are on the drug are encouraged not to conceive during the course of the medicine, as there isn’t much research on the potential dangers to the fetus and the mother.
The side effects range from mild to severe and include:
- Allergic reaction
- Nausea, vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Fluid retention and weight gain
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Swelling of intestines and consequent death
While most of the side effects are stated clearly on Taxotere’s label, there is one that had not been indicated, or like later alleged, consciously hidden by Sanofi-Aventis. Taxotere was discovered to cause alopecia in men and women. Alopecia is the medical term for permanent hair loss. While temporary hair loss is common in chemotherapy and is one of the most distressing parts of undergoing chemotherapy, especially for women, the use of Taxotere as a chemotherapy agent can cause permanent hair loss in some patients who don’t lose their due as a result of the chemotherapy.
Thousands of women came forward and filed claims against Sanofi for hiding this permanent side effect of the drug, causing them to deal with alopecia and baldness, which gravely affected their quality of life, and caused them considerable emotional anguish.How Does the Drug Work?
To understand how Taxotere works in killing off cancer cells, we should first understand how chemotherapy works.
Chemotherapy is the standard treatment for patients of cancer, and it stops the cancer from growing and spreading by stopping the cancerous cells’ production and division. Cancer spreads through aggressive cell division. If you can stop the cancer cell from dividing, it will quickly die, and eventually, cause the tumor to shrink.
Chemotherapy helps the cells do just this. By damaging the DNA or RNA of the cells that teach them how to copy themselves, it successfully stops the cells from dividing. When they can’t divide, they die. It also causes the cells to commit suicide. As a result, the growth of the cancer halts, and the remaining cancer cells die when they are unable to divide.
Chemotherapy needs a chemotherapy agent, which is what directly kills or prohibits the multiplication of the cancer cells. Taxotere is one such agent. Taxotere is specifically an antimicrotubule agent, a kind of agent that inhibits the microtubule structures within the cells. These structures are essential to the replication and division of the cells, and with their destruction, they can’t multiply, and ultimately die.
The problem with chemotherapy is that it cannot differentiate between cancerous and normal cells, so it attacks all of them, regardless of whether they’re harmful to the body or not. The destruction of the healthy cells is what causes the unpleasant side-effects associated with chemotherapy, the most common one being hair loss. The normal cells grow back within some time, though, reversing the side-effects for most people.Uses for Taxotere
Taxotere is a drug administered to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and is called a chemotherapy agent. However, it is not used nor approved for all types of cancer treatments, though studies and experiments are underway to see the effect the drug has on other types of cancers as well. Taxotere is indicated for use in patients of:
Taxotere is indicated for the treatment of patients with breast cancer who have undergone failed chemotherapy before. It is also recommended for use in conjunction with other chemicals for the treatment of operable node-positive breast cancer.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
NSCLC accounts for 85% of all lung cancers and is pretty difficult to treat as NSCLC is insensitive to chemotherapy treatments. Taxotere is indicated in patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer.
For patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, Taxotere is an effective chemotherapy agent.
Head and Neck Cancer
Patients with advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) are also given Taxotere in combination with other compounds. While the drug is not approved and indicated for the treatment of other types of cancers, doctors and researchers are looking into Taxotere’s effectiveness in patients of bladder, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers.Alopecia and its Symptoms
Permanent alopecia is a condition in which a person starts experiencing hair loss in some or all areas of their bodies. While some may only experience bald patches on the scalp, others may experience the brushing off of all hair from their bodies, including scalp hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, and pubic hair. While almost all chemotherapy patients experience hair loss and alopecia, it is usually reversible. The hair shafts become weak due to the exposure to chemotherapy, but new hair growth starts within a year, eventually restoring the full head of hair that the patients had pre-chemo. Studies have revealed that the psychological effect of alopecia is so terrible, that many patients describe it as the worst part of their cancer journey.How does chemotherapy cause hair loss?
Cytotoxic chemotherapy attacks cancer cells, stops them from dividing, which means that they aren’t able to spread to other parts of the body. It often also starts attacking and dividing the hair matrix cells, which results in hair loss. Reversibility of the hair loss is dependent on the severity of the damage to the hair follicles. Another factor that plays a part in the damage is a chemotherapy agent used, among other things. Some chemotherapy agents have the tendency to prolong or make permanent the alopecia that accompanies chemotherapy. One such known agent is docetaxel. It is generally given in doses of 75 mg/m2.
Taxotere, a chemotherapy agent with docetaxel as its active ingredient, has been shown to convert the usual, temporary hair loss from chemotherapy into permanent alopecia because of the damage it inflicts on the hair shafts. Although more details are not known about why it does this, patients should be warned of the risks, and explicit consent should be taken before using it as an agent.
Here are some symptoms of permanent alopecia. Consult a doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Bald patches on your head
- Bald patches that are spreading
- Hair brushing off your arms, legs, and pubic region
- Eyelash and eyebrow thinning
- No visible new hair growth
- Growth of exclamation point hair, or gray hair
The doctor will make a diagnosis fairly quickly by examining your hair or skin in or around the affected areas.Who Can File a Claim for Taxotere Lawsuit?
If you have noticed any of the aforementioned symptoms of alopecia, and your doctor has made an official diagnosis, your doctor might have to ascertain a cause.
Permanent hair loss can also be caused by other things, such as autoimmune diseases and a family history of similar diseases. A quick blood test can rule out any other autoimmune disease that might have caused the hair loss. Likewise, a detailed family history can determine the likelihood of the alopecia being a genetic disease passed down from generation to generation.
If you have undergone chemotherapy in the recent past, let your doctor know. If Taxotere was the chemotherapy agent used in your cancer treatment, and all your other tests show up normal, then Taxotere may most likely the culprit.
While it does not cause permanent alopecia in all patients, docetaxel is proven to have that effect on some patients.
If you are someone who has undergone chemotherapy with Taxotere recently and are now rapidly losing hair permanently, you may be eligible to file for a Taxotere alopecia lawsuit. You may be eligible to claim for the damages that Taxotere has caused you, be it the physical loss of hair from your body, or the emotional trauma that this causes you.
You may be eligible to file a lawsuit against Sanofi-Aventis for failing to warn you of the consequences of using Taxotere as your chemotherapy agent that the company was aware of since 2005. Sanofi instead engaged in marketing and promotion of the drug and misled consumers into thinking that the drug is safe for use.How Long Do I Have to File a Taxotere Lawsuit?
Do not wait too long to file a lawsuit. If the Statute of Limitations for your Taxotere lawsuit expires, your lawsuit will most likely be dismissed and you will likely be barred from pursuing your claim. Speak to an attorney about a lawsuit as soon as you become aware of the development of alopecia as a result of your exposure to Taxotere during your chemotherapy. They can better explain the Statute of Limitations in your specific state.
The Statute of Limitations will vary from state to state, however, we encourage you to contact our seasoned injury lawyers to assist you with filing a lawsuit against Sanofi-Aventis.How Many Lawsuits Have Been Filed Against Sanofi-Aventis?
When people became aware of the permanent hair loss consequences of using docetaxel, the lawsuits against Sanofi-Aventis started pouring in. Over 100,000 breast cancer survivors filed claims against Sanofi for failing to warn them about the alopecia and misleading them about the efficacy of the drug.
In the initial bellwether trial against Sanofi, filed by Barbara Earnest for the alopecia that the use of Taxotere as the chemotherapy agent had caused her, the Louisiana court acquitted the pharmaceutical firm of all charges and concluded that Barbara’s alopecia was not a result of Sanofi’s drug. The use of Taxotere had caused Earnest to lose hair all over her body, including eyebrows and eyelashes. However, the jury sided with Sanofi.
Hattie Carson’s Taxotere lawsuit, filed on January 22, 2016, was one of the first lawsuits to be brought against Sanofi. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and had been prescribed Taxotere for her chemotherapy. After six months of her ending the treatment, she noticed that no new hair growth was occurring, leading to an official alopecia diagnosis.
She blamed Sanofi for failing to warn consumers about the potential alopecia risks that the company was aware of. She claimed damages for past and future medical treatments, psychological therapy, and emotional anguish, amongst other things.
Another lawsuit was filed against Sanofi by Ami Dodson, a breast cancer patient survivor. She accused the pharmaceutical firm of cashing in on a devastating disease, and misleading women about the benefits of the drug. Dodson developed alopecia after her chemotherapy and lost hair from all parts of her body, including her eyebrows. She claimed that alopecia has a disfiguring effect in women, and had she been sufficiently warned about the potential alopecia caused by Taxotere, she would never have opted for it.
In 2017, Sanofi filed a motion for the court to dismiss all Taxotere-related lawsuits. The motion was denied, and the trials and the Taxotere alopecia lawsuit trials are still undergoing. There are thousands of similar cases pending.Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer to File a Taxotere Lawsuit
At Frankl & Kominsky, our injury attorneys have recovered more than $75 million in accident and injury settlements. If you or a loved one were diagnosed with alopecia, or permanent hair loss, after using Taxotere during your cancer treatment, we can try to help you recover compensation for past and future medical bills, cosmetic bills, and special damages.
Our experienced injury attorneys strive to get you the compensation you deserve while you recover from your cancer treatments. We understand that this is a tough time for you, and we will do anything in our power to make the filing process easier for you. We offer a contingency based fee. Contact us for a free case evaluation from our lawyers today and get valuable advice on how to move forward with your Taxotere lawsuit and try to hold those responsible for your alopecia accountable.