April 18, 2016 — A woman from Ohio has filed a lawsuit against Sanofi-Aventis alleging that Taxotere causes permanent hair loss, also known as alopecia.
The lawsuit (PDF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Case No. 1:16-cv-00165) on January 22, 2016.
The plaintiff, Hattie Carson, is a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2004. After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy that included Taxotere, she suffered disfiguring permanent baldness. According to the complaint:
“Defendants [preyed] on one of the most vulnerable groups of individuals at the most difficult time in their lives. … Although alopecia is a common side effect related to chemotherapy drugs, permanent alopecia is not.”
Sanofi-Aventis is accused of failing to provide adequate warnings about the side effects of Taxotere. Labels in Europe and Canada were updated in 2005 and 2012, respectively. However, the risk was not added to the label in the United States until December 2015.
Before then, the label reassured women that “hair generally grows back” after treatments are completed. The problem is that Sanofi-Aventis may have known about the risk of permanent alopecia long before the label updates.
In the 1990s, the company sponsored studies in which alopecia occurred in 9.2% of breast cancer patients who were given Taxotere in combination with other chemotherapy drugs. More recently, a study in 2006 by Dr. Scott Sedlacek found that 6.2% of women on Taxotere plus other chemotherapy drugs for breast cancer grew back less than half of their hair.
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