Taxotere is a powerful drug that treats severe cancer. Like all chemotherapy drugs, it is toxic and harms healthy cells as well as cancer cells. In recent years, Taxotere has been linked to dozens of reports of permanent hair loss.
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Taxotere Hair Loss Lawsuit Filed in Illinois
In March 2016, a lawsuit (PDF) was filed against Sanofi-Aventis by a woman from Illinois who was diagnosed with permanent hair loss after being given Taxotere. She claims the drug-maker knew or should have known about the risk, but failed to provide her with adequate warnings.
The label on Taxotere misleadingly reassures patients that “hair generally grows back” after treatments are completed. It made no mention of permanent hair loss until after the FDA ordered label changes in December 2015.
The plaintiff says she would have considered other chemotherapy treatments had she been warned about the increased risk. According to the complaint:
“There were already similar products on the market that were at least as effective as Taxotere and did not subject female users to the same risk of disfiguring permanent alopecia as does Taxotere.”
Hair Loss from Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy medications like Taxotere attack all rapidly-growing cells, including hair follicles as well as cancer cells. During chemotherapy, hair starts falling out within 7-10 days of the first treatment and increases over the next month or two, leaving many patients completely hairless all over their body. Normally, hair starts regrowing within 3-6 months after the last treatment ends. The condition is also known as alopecia.
What is the problem?
Taxotere (docetaxel) is an anti-cancer medication that shares a similar mechanism of action as Taxol (paclitaxel). It is often used as “last-resort” medications for women with metastatic breast cancer after other chemotherapy treatments have failed. Taxotere is very powerful, but it is also very toxic.
FDA Warning: Taxotere Hair Loss May Be Permanent
Hair loss is a normal side effect of chemotherapy, but permanent hair loss is not. In December 2015, the label on Taxotere was updated to include new warnings about permanent hair loss (alopecia).
Permanent Hair Loss and Taxotere
Evidence linking Taxotere and permanent hair loss has been growing for decades. In the 1990s, Sanofi-Aventis sponsored a study known as GEICAM 9805 to investigate the effectiveness of Taxotere in treating breast cancer. By 2005, researchers found that 9.2% of patients (49 women) had hair loss that persisted or worsened during the 10-year follow-up period.
More recently, an oncologist in Colorado named Dr. Scott Sedlacek presented data from a study that found up to 6.3% of women who were given Taxotere in combination with cyclophosphamide. The study was presented at the Annual San Antonio Breast cancer Symposium in December 2006. He warned:
“Such an emotionally devastating long-term toxicity from this combination must be taken into account when deciding on adjuvant chemotherapy programs in women who likely will be cured of their breast cancer.”
Other Studies of Taxotere Hair Loss
In May 2012, the Annals of Oncology published a study of 20 women who experienced permanent hair loss after undergoing breast cancer treatment with Taxotere plus fluorouracil/epirubicin/cyclophosphamide (FEC-100 docetaxel). The women had moderate or severe hair loss on their scalp that resembled male-pattern baldness. The hair did not regrow despite treatments with vitamins, Rogaine (minoxidil), psoralen and ultraviolet A therapy, or spironolactone.
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