Hair loss is one of the most well known side effects of chemotherapy, so much so that it’s become a near universal symbol of cancer patients in the media. But the hair loss that comes from chemotherapy is supposed to be temporary. After the treatment ends, the survivor expects their hair to grow back. Unfortunately, patients who are given the drug Taxotere may never have hair again—and they were not properly warned of this side effect.
At John Foy & Associates, we are now investigating potential lawsuits related to Taxotere. We believe that breast cancer patients were misled about Taxotere’s side effects. John Foy and Associates is one of the largest personal injury firms in Georgia and we have the experience to take on large companies that are negligent and cause harm to innocent people. We may be able to win you a financial recovery that will pay for medical bills, treatment and pain and suffering related to hair loss. Call us at 404-400-4000 and get a free consultation today.
What is Taxotere and what is it used for?
Taxotere (generic name docetaxel) is a chemotherapy drug produced by the company Sanofi. It is used to help control and eliminate cancer cells, and it is used in several kinds of cancer, but most notably breast cancer. Breast cancer patients are often given chemotherapy in the hopes that this treatment can cure the cancer without resorting to surgery. When it works, it is considered far superior to a mastectomy, which is a surgery that removes part or all of the entire affected breast.
There are numerous chemotherapy drugs on the market, and Taxotere is not the only choice for doctors treating breast cancer patients. Unfortunately, Sanofi worked hard to steer doctors toward its product rather than less expensive drugs. Studies have found that Taxotere is actually less effective than cheaper competitors. In chemotherapy, a less effective drug means a lower survival rate.
Why does chemotherapy cause hair loss?
Chemotherapy drugs work by attacking cancer cells directly. These cells can be targeted because they grow and divide very quickly compared to healthy, normal cells in your body. In a sense, chemotherapy drugs are essentially poisons that attack these cells by inhibiting their ability to divide. Cell division or mitosis is how living cells reproduce, and it’s how cancerous masses grow inside the body.
Unfortunately, not all of your healthy cells are immune to chemotherapy drugs like Taxotere. Some of the body’s most important cells also divide and grow rapidly, just like cancer cells. This includes the lining of your intestines and mouth, and the cells that cause your hair to grow. These cells are attacked by chemotherapy drugs just like cancer cells are. This is why chemotherapy takes such a ferocious toll on the body, and it’s responsible for some of the most serious side effects—including hair loss.
Once chemo stops, however, your healthy cells are expected to recover. With time, you should begin growing hair again. But as many breast cancer patients have discovered, this isn’t always the case with Taxotere.
Why is the hair loss from Taxotere sometimes permanent?
Total hair loss is known medically as alopecia universalis. It is a rare condition and is sometimes caused by an auto-immune response—in other words, the body begins to attack the cells that cause hair to grow as if they are invaders. It’s not clear whether this is how Taxotere causes alopecia or if another mechanism is at play. What is known is that up to 9% of women treated with Taxotere suffer long-term, total-body hair loss for 10 years or more.
How do I know if I have alopecia/permanent hair loss from Taxotere?
The symptoms of alopecia include:
- No eyebrows or eyelashes
- Complete lack of hair all over the body, including the legs, underarm area and groin
If you have been treated with Taxotere and your hair has not grown back yet, there is a chance it won’t. Most breast cancer patients can expect to see at least “peach fuzz” growing back in within three weeks of the end of chemo. Noticeable hair growth should occur within a few months. The more time that passes with no sign of hair, the more likely it is that your hair loss is permanent. But you don’t have to wait a set length of time to see if you have a case. You should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.
Is alopecia serious?
On its own, the condition is not painful and doesn’t threaten your health. However, it can alter or ruin lives. Women who have suffered from permanent hair loss have said:
- Their baldness has affected their relationship or their romantic life
- They are treated differently because of their baldness, stared at, or even shunned
- Their appearance may hurt their career
Perhaps the most painful effect of alopecia, however, is simply the feeling of anxiety and uncertainty. Women with this condition are often self-conscious when they go out in public, or whenever they meet a new person. This feeling may never really go away. And their lack of hair serves as a visible, painful reminder of one of the most frightening times in their life.
Why didn’t Sanofi warn women about permanent hair loss?
It appears that Sanofi was aware of the risk and chose not to give clear warning so that they could protect their profit margin.
In the United States, women had no warning of permanent hair loss until 2015, when the FDA updated its safety information on Taxotere. The FDA added permanent hair loss warnings based on large numbers of reports from patients and doctors. Only after the FDA took this action did Sanofi update its own warnings to potential patients.
But this isn’t the first Sanofi knew of the problem. Lawsuits against the company state that Sanofi warned patients in Europe as early as 2005. Indeed, the company’s own research, which it published in 2005, noted the risk of long term hair loss—but no warning was given to U.S. patients for a full decade.
The reason for this is clear. It appears that Sanofi downplayed the dangers of Taxotere to drive up sales, pushing it over less expensive chemo drugs from competitors. It did this even though it knew the competitors’ products were safer. In fact, research shows that women taking Taxotere are less likely to survive 5 years compared to those who took a cheaper alternative.
In chemotherapy, even a tiny difference in the effectiveness of a drug can mean lives are lost that could otherwise have been saved. Sanofi put its bottom line ahead of the lives of its patients.
Do I have a Taxotere lawsuit?
If you were treated with Taxotere or any other form of docetaxel and your hair has not grown back, you may have a case for a lawsuit against Sanofi. Your lawsuit could result in a financial recovery that can help you pay for hospital bills, hair growth treatment, and the pain of losing your hair.
The only way to know for sure if you have a case is to speak to a lawyer. At John Foy & Associates, we have the experience necessary to fight even the biggest medical companies. We offer a free consultation and we charge you nothing unless we win you money. Don’t wait. Call us at 404-400-4000 and get your FREE consultation today.