Although hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy, permanent hair loss is not. However, as lawsuits against the makers of Taxotere are beginning to reveal, that is not always the situation.
The FDA approved Taxotere (docetaxel) in 1996 for treatment of breast cancer. Taxotere has since been used to treat several other types of cancers including non-small lung cancer, prostate cancer, gastric cancer, and head and neck cancer. While Taxotere is an effective cancer drug, lawsuits filed against the makers of Taxotere allege that the drug causes permanent hair loss.
Cancer patients who filed the lawsuit say that the makers of Taxotere failed to inform them or their doctors that a potential side effect of the drug could be permanent hair loss, also known as Taxotere alopecia. Although the Taxotere label has always mentioned hair loss as a possible side effect, there was no mention that the hair loss could be permanent.
Cancer patients say that if they would have known Taxotere could lead to permanent hair loss, they would have opted for Taxol, a less potent but equally effective alternative that does not cause permanent hair loss.
Hattie Carson, a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Taxotere, received Taxotere as part of her chemotherapy in an effort to combat breast cancer. Six months after taking Taxotere, her hair failed to grow back. She was then diagnosed with Taxotere alopecia (permanent hair loss).
In December 2015 the FDA issued a formal warning and Taxotere updated their label to warn about the potential for permanent hair loss. Soon after Taxotere’s move, Carson launched a lawsuit again the cancer pharmaceutical company in the US District Court of the Northern District of Ohio (Case Number: 1:16-cv-00165).
“Although alopecia is a common side effect related to chemotherapy drugs, permanent alopecia is not. Defendants, through its publications and marketing material, misled Plaintiff, the public, and the medical community to believe that, as with other chemotherapy drugs that cause alopecia, patients’ hair would grow back,” Carson’s lawsuit states.
According to various lawsuits, studies conducted by the makers of Taxotere, Sanofi, showed that three percent of cancer patients experienced persistent or permanent hair loss after taking the drug. On the other hand, an independent study in 2006 suggested that about 6 percent of breast cancer patients failed to successfully grow back most of their hair. Another study conducted by the National Cancer Research Institute in 2013 found that ten to fifteen percent of cancer patients who took Taxotere experienced permanent hair loss.
Although hair loss is a common side effect related to chemotherapy drugs, permanent hair loss is not.
Did you experience permanent hair loss after taking Taxotere?