The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to grant multicounty litigation status to all Taxotere permanent hair loss claims filed in the state’s Superior Courts.
According to a Notice to the Bar dated August 15th, all currently pending Taxotere lawsuits, as well as any cases filed in the future, will be transferred to Middlesex County Superior Court for centralized case management. The Honorable James F. Hyland will preside over the new multicounty litigation.
Plaintiffs had petitioned for multicounty litigation status in March, after 353 Taxotere lawsuits had been filed in New Jersey Superior Court on behalf of individuals who are alleged to have suffered permanent hair loss due to side effects associated with the chemotherapy agent.
The lawsuits claim that Sanofi-Aventis and other defendants were aware of the potential for Taxotere to cause permanent hair loss but failed to warn doctors and patients of this risk for many years. Plaintiffs seek damages for the personal injuries they suffered due to the defendants’ alleged wrongful conduct.
The petition argued that multicounty litigation status for the New Jersey Taxotere docket would improve judicial efficiency by, among other things, minimizing duplicative motions practice and inconsistent court rulings.
More than 9,000 Taxotere lawsuits are already undergoing centralized case management in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, where all such federal claims were consolidated before a single judge in 2016.
Taxotere (docetaxel) was initially approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996 to treat breast cancer, Since then, the drug’s approved indications have been expanded to include the treatment of head and neck cancer, gastric cancer, prostate cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.
Plaintiffs who have filed Taxotere lawsuits acknowledge that temporary hair loss is a common side effect of most chemotherapy agents. However, they cite a number of studies and case reports that suggest alopecia associated with Taxotere is far more likely to be permanent compared to equally effective alternative chemotherapy drugs.
Among other things, plaintiffs point out that the European medical community was informed of the potential for docetaxel-induced permanent hair loss in 2005, while the Canadian Taxotere label underwent a similar modification in 2012. They question why similar information was not added to the U.S. Taxotere label at this time.
The U.S. prescribing information for Taxotere was finally updated in December 2015 to note permanent hair loss as a possible side effect.