Taxotere Hair Loss Lawsuit

This is the latest update on the Taxotere class action (MDL) lawsuits as of December 17, 2021.

The second bellwether Taxotere trial in the Taxotere lawsuits started in New Orleans earlier this month.  We hoped for a different outcome.  The first Taxetere trial was a verdict for Sanofi in 2019. We were hoping this trial will turn out different and the settlement value of these Taxotere lawsuits will increase.

Second Taxotere Trial in November 2021 Ends in a Loss

Unfortunately, a Louisiana jury found for Sanofi Aventis on all counts.   The federal jury rejected the plaintiff’s argument that drugmaker failed to provide adequate warnings about the risk of permanent hair loss associated with Taxotere.

Do some mass tort lawsuits begin with losses and the tide turns and plaintiffs start winning and the defendant offers fair settlement amounts?  Yes.  But let’s not pretend there are many silver linings when you lose two lawsuits in a row.

What Is Taxotere?

Taxotere is a chemotherapy drug used to treat a number of cancers, especially breast cancer. Taxotere is a taxanes.  Taxanes are diterpenes produced by the plants of the genus Taxus that have a taxadiene core.

Taxanes are widely used as chemotherapy agents. Taxotere has been one of the most widely used chemotherapy drugs since it was developed in the mid-1990s. Chemotherapy drugs like Taxotere work by attacking cancer cells within the body. Taxotere was originally developed and introduced by the New Jersey pharmaceutical company Adventis which is now Sanofi-Adventis.

What Cancer Does Taxotere Treat?

Following its approval by the FDA in 1996, a strong marketing push soon made Taxotere the chemo drug of choice for breast cancer treatment. Breast cancer is one of the most common types of all cancers with 300,000 women diagnosed annually.

By 2009, the majority of breast cancer patients were being treated at some point with Taxotere, making it the most prescribed chemo agent in the U.S. In 2009, the year before the original patent on Taxotere expired, Sanofi-Adventis reported $3 billion in revenues from its popular chemo drug.

What Does the Taxotere Lawsuit Allege?

Plaintiffs allege that the drug caused permanent alopecia which is permanent hair loss. Plaintiffs allege negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, and more. But the most important claim is failure to warn. The gist of this argument is that there was a duty to warn victims of the risk of permanent hair loss to give them the choice to consider other alternatives.

Hair Loss

Taxotere has experienced a notable fall from grace since its glory days in the early 2000s. As it turns out Taxotere has one very unfortunate flaw. In a certain percentage of women (between 10-20% depending on what study you read) Taxotere causes permanent hair loss. Everyone generally expects their hair to fall out during chemotherapy. It’s the price you pay for getting rid of cancer.

But chemo hair loss is supposed to be a temporary side effect. When people undergo chemotherapy, they reasonably expect their hair to grow back when the chemo is over. Hair loss is a big deal, particularly for women. Unfortunately, thousands of women who were treated with Taxotere for breast cancer learned afterward that their hair was never coming back.

We now know that in a certain subset of patients, Taxotere triggers permanent hair loss. We also know that Sanofi-Adventis was well aware of this permanent side-effect for years. There are many indications are that Sanofi-Adventis knew about the permanent hair loss problem since as early as 1998. The company allegedly actively concealed this fact because it realized there is a risk that permanent hair loss would damage Taxotere’s marketability, particularly with female breast cancer patients. For over 10 years Sanfoi-Adventis knowingly failed to warn that Taxotere may cause permanent alopecia in certain patients.

It was not until 2015 that the warnings in the prescribing label were changed. To make matters even worse, it looks like Sanofi-Adventis may have made false claims about the effectiveness of Taxotere over alternative chemo drugs.

One of the main reasons Taxotere became so widely used is that Sanofi-Adventis told doctors that it was more effective at fighting cancer than other, less toxic chemo drugs like Taxol. However, in 2009 the FDA determined that these claims were completely false. Not only does Taxotere cause permanent hair loss, but it is less effective than alternative chemo drugs like Taxol.

Taxotere Lawsuits

In the wake of Taxotere’s striking downfall, thousands of women with permanent hair loss are now bringing product liability lawsuits against Sanofi-Adventis. These former breast cancer patients claim that Sanofi-Adventis lied about the effectiveness of Taxotere and deliberately concealed the fact that the drug may cause permanent hair loss.

The evidence supporting these claims is very strong. There is no real dispute about the link between Taxotere and permanent hair loss. At least 10% of people who are treated with Taxotere will suffer permanent hair loss. It is also pretty obvious that Sanofi-Adventis knew about this side effect and deliberately concealed it for over 10 years. In some individual cases, causation may be an issue.

However, the primary battleground in the Taxotere lawsuits will likely be on the issue of damages. In most pharmaceutical lawsuits the plaintiffs suffer serious physical injuries like heart attacks or strokes. By contrast, the Taxotere plaintiffs only lost their hair.

At first glance, losing your hair may seem somewhat trivial in comparison to suffering a stroke or losing an organ. But permanent hair loss can be just mentally and emotionally devastating, especially for a woman recovering from breast cancer.

Taxotere MDL

MDL is an acronym for Multi-District Litigation. MDL is a special process in the federal court system which is frequently used in large-scale product liability and pharmaceutical cases. In an MDL, hundreds or thousands of related cases in Federal Courts across the country get consolidated together into a single court and assigned to one judge.

The cases remain consolidated in the MDL for efficient pretrial discovery management. If there is no global settlement at the end of the pretrial / discovery phase a few individual cases will be selected and sent back for trial in their original courts. The outcome of the trials in these initial “bellwether” cases is then used as a reference in negotiating the settlement of the remaining cases. Whenever a drugmaker like Sanofi-Adventis suddenly gets hit with a wave of related lawsuits across the country, they are almost always consolidated into an MDL.

An MDL for the Taxotere hair loss lawsuits was established in October 2016 (MDL – 2740 Taxotere (Docetaxel) Products Liability Litigation). All the Taxotere cases in federal courts are now consolidated into this MDL and assigned to Judge Jane Triche Milazzo in the Eastern District of Louisiana. The size of the Taxotere MDL continues to grow very rapidly. When the MDL was first formed in 2016 there were about 5,500 cases.

As of October 2021, there are now 12,449 Taxotere lawsuits in the MDL, ranking the Taxotere litigation as the 5th largest active mass tort litigation in the country. (Although the MDL judge dismissed some of these cases for failure to cooperate.)

Plaintiffs’ lawyers lost the first Taxotere lawsuit in 2019.  The second trial that starts in just a few days on August 23, 2021, will hopefully go better.  (Defendant’s attempt to dismiss this case before trial was denied by the MDL judge.) If you have a claim and this lawsuit is successful, you can expect that to have a positive impact on any future settlement compensation payouts in Taxotere lawsuits.

What Is the Settlement Value of the Taxotere Lawsuits?

I’m hopeful a jury verdict in this August 2021 trial will increase the expected individual settlement awards in the Taxotere class action lawsuits. But our law firm is not at all involved in this litigation so it would be hard for us to speculate on settlement compensation payouts.

When Will the Taxotere Lawsuits be Settled?

These bellwether trials are designed to determine the settlement value of the cases. Covid has slowed down the ability of the MDL class action judge to push trials forward. More trials will lead to a better understanding of the appropriate settlement awards for these lawsuits.

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