In the United States alone, doctors anticipate that more than 1.6 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2016. There are hundreds of types of cancer but it doesn’t matter what the diagnosis is – no one wants to hear the words “You have cancer” come out of their doctor’s mouth. Thankfully, years of research mean that many forms are curable and thousands of lives are saved each day.
However, the medications used to treat cancer can have serious, dangerous, and life-changing consequences and patients are fighting to hold the manufacturers liable through lawsuits.
Taxotere Does Permanent Damage
Taxotere, which also goes by the name docetaxel, has been available to doctors on the U.S. market since 1996. The drug, which is a form of chemotherapy manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis, was initially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat breast cancer. Today, it is now also used to treat non-small cell lung cancer, stomach cancer, neck cancer, and prostate cancer.
How Does It Work?
Taxotere is made from the bark of a Pacific Yew tree, more specifically, its plant alkaloids. It invades the cancer cells and inhibits the microtubules, a part of the cell that is necessary for cell division. This is how it stops cancer from growing and spreading.
Not only did the drug prove to extend the life of breast cancer patients during a trial, but researchers determined that a dose only needed to be given every three weeks instead of weekly like some of its competitors. So it is hardly surprising that the drug soon became one of the most popular forms of chemotherapy used by physicians.
So Why Are Lawsuits Being Filed?
Not every drug is right for every patient and nearly every drug, especially powerful drugs used to treat deadly diseases, have side effects. For Taxotere, the side effects include:
- color changes to the nails
- sores in the throat and mouth
- fluid retention
- bones and joint pain
- numbness in the fingers and toes
The FDA did release a Black Box warning, which informed the medical community and the public that the drug could cause kidney damage, low blood pressure, anaphylaxis, and toxic death.
These side effects are not uncommon for any chemotherapy medication and doctors were generally aware that these could occur because they are included on the drug’s warning label. However, another, more permanent side effect was not on the product’s warning label – alopecia universalis.
What is Alopecia Universalis?
Most people know that if chemotherapy administered, there is a chance that the patient will lose all of their hair. Normally, hair begins to grow back once chemotherapy has been stopped, within weeks. In patients that were given Taxotere, almost 10% ended up with alopecia universalis, which means that their hair simply never grew back. This can impact the:
The permanent loss of hair has been devastating for patients throughout the country. While some may argue that hair loss isn’t a big deal, studies have shown that alopecia is linked to poor body image, anxiety, and depression and can seriously impact how an individual functions socially, sexually, and in the workplace.
In the numerous lawsuits filed against Sanofi-Aventis, plaintiffs are alleging that the company:
- failed to properly test the drug
- placed it on the market before the proper tests were done
- failed to label the risks of using the drug on the product
- was negligent by not informing the public and medical community of all risks associated with using the drug
- of misleading patients with their marketing
- of creating a dangerous drug, and
- of concealing known information about the drug from the public
The lawsuits report that Sanofi-Aventis sponsored a study called the GEICAM study in the 1990’s, which showed by 2005 that the drug could cause permanent hair loss. Plaintiffs are also claiming that the company chose to warn doctors in other countries about the risk the drug posed to their patients, but not in the U.S.
On July 22nd, 2016, a motion was filed for the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation requesting that all Taxotere lawsuits be consolidated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Louisiana.
The purpose of an MDL is to join together all lawsuits that have similar questions of fact in an effort to prevent duplicate discovery and save everyone involved, including the courts, time and money.
On October 5th, 2016, the request was granted all federally-filed lawsuits were moved to Louisiana under Judge Lance M. Africk.
Does This Mean New Lawsuits Can’t Be Filed?
No, this doesn’t mean that new lawsuits can’t be filed – in fact, new lawsuits are being filed regularly and the ongoing litigation is expected to grow rapidly.
If you or a loved one were given Taxotere and have been diagnosed with alopecia, contact our New York defective drug lawyers today for a free consultation.