Sanofi-Aventis, currently named a defendant in dozens of Taxotere lawsuits over the cancer drug’s alleged propensity to cause permanent hair loss, has voiced its support for a plan to centralize all such federally-filed cases in a single U.S. District Court for the purposes of coordinated pretrial proceedings. However, the company differs with Taxotere plaintiffs as to the appropriate venue for the proposed multidistrict litigation.
Taxotere is a chemotherapy agent that is currently approved to treat a number of cancers, including locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer after failure of prior chemotherapy, as well as breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes. Court documents indicate that Sanofi has been named a defendant in at least 48 Taxotere hair loss claims that are currently pending in 22 different U.S. jurisdictions. All were filed on behalf of women who allegedly experienced permanent alopecia following their cancer treatment.
While plaintiffs acknowledge that chemotherapy drugs generally do cause temporary hair loss, they contend that alopecia associated with Taxotere is more likely to be permanent when compared to other, equally effective medications. They further claim that Sanofi has been aware of this issue for years, but has failed to warn doctors and patients about this risk.
Sanofi denies these allegations, and maintains that the Taxotere label includes “clear language” regarding hair loss.
Last month, several Taxotere plaintiffs filed a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to have all federally-filed alopecia cases involving the drug consolidated and transferred to the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana. Other plaintiffs have suggested that the cases be transferred to the Southern District of Illinois, Northern District of Illinois, or the District of Minnesota.
In a Response filed with the JPML on August 16th, Sanofi agreed that centralization of the federal Taxotere docket would be appropriate, but countered that either the District of New Jersey or District of Colorado would serve as the best venue for the proceeding. Among other things, the company notes that the first Taxotere lawsuit was filed in that District, and is more procedurally advanced than any of the other pending cases. The response also posits that the case is likely to be tapped by plaintiffs as a bellwether trial candidate. Furthermore, the plaintiff in that lawsuit has been a leading activist regarding Taxotere and the issue of permanent hair loss.
“Moreover, Ms. Gahan has been a leading patient advocate regarding Taxotere and permanent alopecia – the central issue in this litigation,” the response states. “In 2015 (and likely much earlier), Ms. Gahan was communicating directly with FDA officials regarding proposed changes to the Taxotere label regarding alopecia.”
In proposing the District of New Jersey, Sanofi pointed out that its headquarters is located in Bridgewater, New Jersey.