Long or short, curly or straight, red or brown, our hair is part of who we are. Many cancer survivors daydream about re-growing their hair after chemotherapy. After much anticipation, some survivors have come to realize that their hair will not grow back. Ever. Taxotere, a chemotherapy drug manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis was supposed to help individuals in the most vulnerable times of their lives. However, after a hard-fought battle with cancer, the drug can also cause permanent and irreversible hair loss known as alopecia.
Alopecia linked to Taxotere
Taxotere is the most prescribed drug in its class. It has been prescribed to more than 75 percent of breast cancer patients. The drug can affect patients in various ways. While some cancer survivors who have taken Taxotere may experience complete hair loss without regrowth, others may experience splotchy hair loss.
Sanofi-Aventis and hidden evidence
Although other drugs were equally effective, Sanofi-Aventis advertised the misleading claim that Taxotere was more effective than other chemotherapy drugs. However, one of the more significant differences between Taxotere and other drugs on the market is permanent hair loss.
A study consisting of 5,000 women found that getting Taxol every week had more benefits than getting Taxotere weekly or every three weeks. The same study revealed that more women who received Taxol once a week, compared to women who received Taxol every three weeks or women who received Taxotere weekly or every three weeks were likely to be alive and free of breast cancer five years after being diagnosed.
Sanofi-Aventis falsely marketed Taxotere as superior to its competitor Taxol. The companies lack of honesty may have caused hundreds of thousands of women to choose Taxotere over a similar drug, simply because they believed that it was more effective and just as safe as the alternative.
Sanofi-Aventis sponsored research on Taxotere so that they could begin to produce it. The drug entered and completed a clinical trial phase in the early 2000s. The trial included more than 1,000 women who were treated for breast cancer with Taxotere. On completion of the clinical trial phase, the results showed that 9.2 percent of the women in the trial struggled with long-term hair loss. In a similar study including 744 women, 3.9 percent experienced permanent hair loss eight years after their treatment was completed.
Even with all of this information, it wasn’t until the fall of 2015 that The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated Taxotere’s label to warn the public about the risk of permanent hair loss.
Taxotere’s effects on quality of life
Studies show that in comparison to a healthy population, women who suffered permanent hair loss after treatment showed a decrease in their quality of life. Sanofi-Aventis is accused of causing countless cancer survivors undue distress and suffering.
Permanent hair loss is an appearance-altering condition affecting all body hair including eyelashes, eyebrows, nostril hair and pubic hair. The condition may greatly impact a person’s self-esteem and body image. Whether the hair loss is temporary or permanent, it may take a survivor time to adjust to the changes.
For as long as we can remember, hair is associated with femininity, beauty, and youth. Alopecia can make any woman feel as if she is no longer as beautiful as she once was. Women affected by Taxotere’s permanent hair loss side effect now have to purchase wigs to try and feel as normal as possible. The body image issues that the side effects of Taxotere have brought upon these women can also be a threat to their romantic relationships. On top of coping with their new look, some of these women may struggle with letting their partner get close enough to touch their hair.
Chemotherapy hair loss studies reveal that women feel less confident and have lower self-esteem. For example, in one study nearly half of women described hair loss as the most traumatic side effect of their treatment.
The response we receive from others also plays a large role in how we view ourselves physically. Those suffering from Alopecia can hear the whispers and often endure stares which may lead to anxiety and uncertainty. They may become self-conscious every time they are in public. All of these negative feelings would discourage anyone from participating in social functions and gatherings.
For many breast cancer survivors, alopecia is much more than a cosmetic effect. Lack of hair is a constant reminder of the most frightening times in their lives which can lead to depression and distress.
Survivors dealing with alopecia may receive unwanted attention that makes them feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. Because alopecia is a visible condition, some fear they will be seen as a cancer patient for the rest of their lives. They don’t want to be seen or remembered as a “sick” person; they want to go back to the normal life they had.
Someone battling negative emotions may not enjoy their life as much as they should. Some survivors have a constant fear of a child pointing out the fact that they don’t have hair. While others worry about the chatty lady in the grocery store approaching them with pity. And some may fear the privacy intrusion from questions about their battle with cancer will consume them and leave them emotionally exhausted.
Taxotere manufacturers are facing thousands of lawsuits. Women filing these lawsuits believe they should have been made aware of all relevant information about the serious side effects that may come along with the use of Taxotere.
Allegations against Sanofi-Aventis assert that the company:
- Negligently manufactured the drug
- Failed to test the drug properly
- Failed to warn patients and health care providers accurately
- Withheld research data and evidence of the dangers of the drug
- Misrepresented the safety and effectiveness of the drug in its marketing and promotional material
- Claimed hair would grow back despite knowing there was a chance it never would
A company whistleblower lawsuit filed in 2015 alleged that Sanofi-Aventis took advantage of vulnerable women’s lack of knowledge to boost the sales of their product. Statements accuse the manufacturer of training its employees to misinterpret the safety and effectiveness of off-label uses to expand its market. The lawsuit also states medical providers were paid illegal “kickbacks” to prescribe the drug.
These fraudulent marketing tactics increased Taxotere’s revenue from 424 million in 2000 to 1.2 billion in 2004 at the expense of women fighting for their lives.
You may be entitled to compensation
Permanent hair loss as a result of taking Taxotere causes much emotional, physical and financial loss for the victim. Drug manufacturers have a duty to provide safe products to consumers. They also have a duty to adequately warn the public of any risks associated with using their product. When drug makers fail these duties, those harmed as a result may file a lawsuit to hold them liable for injuries that have resulted.
If you were harmed by taking Taxotere, you may be entitled to compensation for damages including:
- Permanent disfigurement
- Pain, suffering, mental anguish
- Past and future medical expenses
- Counseling expenses
- Severe depression
- Wig expenses
- Loss of the quality and enjoyment of life
How The Carlson Law Firm can help after Taxotere hair loss
We understand having to cope with alopecia is a truly devastating time when you should not feel alone in overcoming this obstacle. Contact The Carlson Law Firm today to have an aggressive advocate in your corner supporting you through the often complex process that lies ahead. We have been holding those responsible for causing harm with defective drugs for over 40 years. We strongly believe those who jeopardize the well-being of another should be held accountable.
We represent clients across the nation. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. We care, we can help.