Hair loss is one of the most well-known side-effects of chemotherapy or cancer treatment, so much so that a bald head has become a near universal symbol of cancer patients across our society and in the media. The hair loss from chemotherapy is supposed to be temporary, however, many of those who were taking Taxotere have found their hair loss to be permanent.
While many would willingly suffer permanent hair loss in order to survive cancer, that didn’t have to be the case as there were and are many other chemotherapy drugs that have been proven to be equally effective, but without the chance of permanent hair loss.
What is Taxotere?
Taxotere (also known generically as docetaxel) is a chemotherapy drug produced by the French company Sanofi-Aventis.
The drug is used to help prevent cancer cells from growing and dividing for several different types of cancer, including non-small cell lung cancer, advanced stomach cancer, head and neck cancer, and metastatic prostate cancer, but it is most widely used in the treatment of breast cancer.
Taxotere is a member of a family of drugs called taxanes, and it is administered intravenously during a one-hour long infusion cycle which is repeated every three to four weeks.
It is normally used in combination with other drugs like cisplatin, fluorouracil, doxorubicin, capecitabine, and cyclophosphamide in order to fight off cancer and offer a better survival rate to patients.
Side Effects of Taxotere
As with any pharmaceutical, there are a number of potential side effects, which can include bone, muscle or joint pain, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, low red or white blood cell counts, or numbness in fingers and toes, among others.
Perhaps the most serious potential side effect of Taxotere is neutropenic enterocolitis, which is the inflammation of a small pouch at the head of the large intestine. While this condition is rare, it is often fatal.
Another potential side effect, which can be emotionally devastating for many women, is the possibility of permanent hair loss, also known as alopecia.
Taxotere Hair Loss
Hair loss is a well-known outcome of chemotherapy treatment, but hair is normally expected to grow back within 3-6 months after stopping treatment. Unfortunately, approximately 10-15% of women who used Taxotere during their chemotherapy treatment have reported hair loss for as long as ten years or more after they stopped receiving treatment.
This permanent hair loss can come in many different forms, including non-existent hair growth under the arms or around the groin, the loss of eyelashes or eyebrows, partial or complete baldness of the scalp, or even total hair loss on both the body and the scalp. This is a condition known as alopecia universalis, which is the most frequent hair loss condition associated with the use of Taxotere.
Chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss because they are essentially like poisons which attack the cancer, however not all of your healthy cells are immune to this attack. Cell division is how living cells reproduce, which is also how cancerous masses grow inside of the body, but a number of important cells also divide and grow rapidly, just like cancer cells do, including the lining of your intestines and mouth, and the cells that cause hair to grow.
These healthy and important cells are also attacked like cancer cells, which is why chemotherapy can take such a heavy toll on the body, but once the chemotherapy stops, the healthy cells are expected to recover.
Most people who have received chemotherapy can expect to have “peach fuzz” within one month of stopping treatment, and noticeable hair growth should occur within a few months. If you’ve been treated with Taxotere and your hair has not grown back at this point, then there is a good chance that it won’t, as the longer time passes, the more likely the loss is permanent.
Not Warned of the Risks
Estimates have shown that as many as 75% of women who were given Taxotere in their treatment of breast cancer were not warned about the significantly increased chances of permanent hair loss. In most cases, doctors prescribing the medicine weren’t aware of these risks, while lawsuits allege that the drug’s manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis, were aware of the risks as early as the 1990s, but they deliberately attempted to downplay or conceal these risks.
Even more troubling, statements from a company whistleblower allege that the drug manufacturer was incentivizing doctors with “kickbacks” to prescribe Taxotere rather than lower cost alternatives, even though some of those alternative chemotherapy drugs were just as effective, if not more effective, than Taxotere and had no risk of permanent hair loss.
It appears that Sanofi-Aventis was aware of the risks but chose not to warn doctors or patients in order to protect their profit margin.
Sanofi warned European health officials about the dangers of hair loss in 2005, and Health Canada in 2012, however patients in the US were kept in the dark until December 2015 when the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required them to include package insert labels with this risk, when previously there was no warning.
While permanent hair loss is not a painful or serious condition that would threaten your health, it can most certainly alter or ruin lives. Women who have suffered permanent hair loss often say that their hair loss has negatively affected their relationship or romantic life, that they are treated differently, stared at, or sometimes even shunned, or that their appearance has hurt their career.
Many women also feel a nagging sensation of anxiety or uncertainty when it comes to going out in public or the prospect of meeting new people. For some suffering permanent hair loss, it is a feeling that never really goes away and can be a painful reminder every day about one of the most frightening and difficult periods of their lives.
After overcoming a hard-fought battle against breast cancer it can feel like another devastating blow to discover that the drug that you expected to heal you has caused permanent hair loss, especially when those risks were brushed under the rug by a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company.
The Taxotere attorneys at Fears Nachawati understand the frustration and anguish felt by those suffering from side effects that they were never warned about, and we are fully prepared to fight on behalf of breast cancer survivors suffering permanent Taxotere-related hair loss.
The Taxotere attorneys at Fears Nachawati want to fight for the women who were blindsided by the deceptive tactics of Sanofi-Aventis and who must now live with the lifelong consequences and emotional pain and suffering as a result of permanent hair loss.
If you or someone you know has permanent alopecia as a result of using Taxotere, then the legal team at Fears Nachawati may be able to help you hold the responsible parties accountable. Contact the experienced legal team at Fears Nachawati for a free, no obligation legal consultation to discuss the specifics of your Taxotere case. Please call (866) 705-7584, or visit the offices of Fears Nachawati located throughout the great state of Texas, including in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.