Taxotere lawsuits continue to mount in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, where all federally-filed legal claims involving the cancer drug’s alleged potential to cause permanent hair loss have been undergoing centralized pretrial proceedings. Just last month, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) transferred three Taxotere hair loss cases from California federal courts to Louisiana, after finding that they shared common questions of fact with the other lawsuits pending in the proceeding.
According to an Order dated May 31st, the three Taxotere lawsuits had already been conditionally transferred to the Eastern District of Louisiana. However, Plaintiffs had motioned to vacate the conditional transfer, as their motions to remand the cases to state court were still pending. In refusing to do so, the JPML stated “that jurisdictional issues do not present an impediment to transfer, as plaintiffs can present these arguments to the transferee judge.”
More than 1,000 Taxotere lawsuits are now pending in the District of Minnesota, all of which were filed on behalf of individuals who allegedly experienced permanent hair loss following treatment with name-brand or generic versions of the drug. While alopecia is a side effect that accompanies many chemotherapy treatments, plaintiffs claim that Taxotere-related hair loss is more likely to be permanent.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved Taxotere in 1996 to treat breast cancer. Since then, the drug’s indications have been expanded to include a number of other cancers. However, it wasn’t until December 2015 that mention of permanent alopecia as a possible side effect was added to the drug’s label.
Taxotere plaintiffs assert that Sanofi-Aventis had known that Taxotere could cause permanent hair loss long before the label was updated. Among other things, they claim that the company was aware of research published in the late 1990s indicating that 9.2 percent of Taxotere patients experienced persistent alopecia for up to 10 years or longer. In 2006, a Denver-based oncologist had observed that an increased percentage of his Taxotere patients suffered from permanent hair loss for years after discontinuing treatment.
Finally, plaintiffs point out that the potential for Taxotere to cause permanent alopecia was communicated to regulators and patients in Europe as early as 2005, while the Canadian label underwent a similar modification in 2012. Yet, the U.S. prescribing information only included a vaguely worded and insufficient statement that “hair generally grows back.”