There were 705 lawsuits involving Taxotere and permanent hair loss as of January 17, 2017, according to an update from the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML).
There were only 267 lawsuits when the JPML issued its last update on December 15, 2016. That means 438 lawsuits were filed in four weeks over the holidays — nearly tripling the size of the centralized litigation in Louisiana that started with 33 cases in October 2016.
Taxotere lawsuits nationwide are currently centralized in Multi-District Litigation (MDL No. 2740) in the Eastern District of Louisiana under U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt.
The number of lawsuits has skyrocketed as more people who did not re-grow their hair after chemotherapy learn that permanent alopecia is a side effect of Taxotere.
Sanofi-Aventis has known about the side effect for more than a decade, but warnings were only updated in the United States about a year ago.
Many people who had slow-growing cancers say they would have chosen a less-toxic chemotherapy drug if they had known about the risk.
Until recently, the U.S. label on Taxotere reassured patients that “hair generally grows back” after completing chemotherapy. Warnings about permanent alopecia were not added until December 2015 — more than a decade after similar warnings were added in Canada.
Taxotere labels in Canada have had warnings about permanent hair loss since 2005. In Europe, warnings have been on the label since 2012. Sanofi-Aventis is accused of failing to warn American cancer patients about the risk of going bald.
The label in the U.S. now warns: “In most cases, normal hair growth should return. In some cases (frequency not known) permanent hair loss has been observed.”
Taxotere (docetaxel) is approved for several types of cancer, but most lawsuits involve women with breast cancer who did not re-grow their hair after using it with other drugs as part of a chemotherapy regimen.
For example, Sanofi-Aventis’s own clinical trials in the 1990s found that 9.2% of women with breast cancer who completed chemotherapy with Taxotere, Adriamcycin, and Cyclophosphamide (TAC) reported hair loss that persisted during the 10-year follow-up period.