Hundreds of Taxotere lawsuits filed over the drug’s alleged propensity to cause permanent hair loss are moving forward in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana. According to a Pretrial Order dated March 31st, the Court is scheduled to meet with Plaintiffs’ and Defendants’ Settlement Committees on two occasions next month.
Nearly 800 cases are pending in the Taxotere litigation underway in Louisiana. In December, the Court established committees to engage in continuous general settlement discussions on a regular basis. The attorneys serving on these Settlement Committees were directed not to partake in detailed discovery or other activities that might distract them from “pursuing avenues for potential resolution of some or all of the issues” set forth in Taxotere lawsuits.
The Court’s first meeting with the Settlement Committees will take place on Wednesday, May 3rd, following the previously-scheduled Science Day presentations. A follow-up meeting will be held on Friday, May 12th, after the litigation’s regularly-scheduled status conference.
Taxotere is used in chemotherapy to treat breast cancer and a number of other malignancies. The medication was brought to market in 1996 by Sanofi-Aventis. Plaintiffs claim that by the late 1990s the drug maker was aware of research suggesting that 9.2% of Taxotere patients experienced persistent alopecia for up to 10 years or longer. Then in 2006, a Denver Oncologist reported that a higher percentage of his Taxotere patients had suffered from permanent hair loss for years after ending their cancer treatment. However, mention of permanent alopecia as a possible Taxotere side effect was not added to the drug’s U.S. label until December 2015.
While most chemotherapy patients will experience alopecia, plaintiffs who have filed Taxotere lawsuits claim that hair loss associated with its use is more likely to be permanent compared to other, equally as effective agents. They also assert that information regarding the possibility of permanent alopecia was provided to doctors and patients in Europe as early as 2005, while the Canadian label underwent a similar modification in 2012.
“As a direct result of Defendants’ failure to warn patients of the risk of disfiguring permanent alopecia in the United States, thousands of women, including Plaintiff, as well as their health care providers, were deprived of the opportunity to make an informed decision as to whether the benefits of using Taxotere over other comparable products was justified,” the complaints charge.