Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer women in the U.S. suffer from. Every year, 183,000 to 300,000 new cases are diagnosed, while close to 45,000 die. About 50% of breast cancer patients who are successfully treated for the first time are most likely to suffer a relapse. When cancer recurs, the cancer cells usually metastasizes or spreads to the liver or bone, or other areas beyond the breast. For women aged between 40 and 55, metastatic breast cancer is the leading cause of death.
On August 19, 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Taxotere Injection Concentrate, or TAC regimen, for the post surgery treatment of patients with operable, node-positive breast cancer. This TAC regimen is formulated to help reduce risk of breast cancer relapse.
Taxotere is an intravenous chemotherapy drug that is manufactured and marketed by Sanofi-Aventis; it was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1996 for treatment of breast cancer. Compared to another chemotherapy drug in its class, Paclitaxel, specifically, requires treatment every week; Taxotere’s treatment plan, on the other hand, is once every three weeks, which means less often trip to the doctor’s clinic – a more attractive and convenient set up for patients. Due to this, doctors rather prescribe Taxotere to patients despite the fact that Paclitaxel is just as effective.
Taxotere, however, is linked to one disfiguring side effect: permanent alopecia or permanent hair loss.
Hair loss is an expected consequence of chemotherapy treatment. Patients, who undergo chemotherapy, though, can expect their hair to grow back within three to six weeks after treatment has stopped. In the case of women who underwent treatment with Taxotere, however, hair loss was not temporary; it was permanent. What actually angers affected women is the absence of warning regarding the drug’s side-effect; otherwise, they could have made an informed choice.
What angers many of these women and their families is that they were never properly warned of the risk so they could make an informed choice. As a result, lawsuits now are faced by Sanofi-Aventis. These lawsuits claim several legal actions, two of which are selling the drug without disclosing its dangers or risks and concealing information from the public.
More than just a constant reminder of their struggle with breast cancer, this permanent hair loss caused by Taxotere has greatly affected the quality of life of many women, specifically causing negative effects in their social, professional and sexual relationships.
In the website of the Williams Kherkher law firm, it is said that Taxotere’s manufacturers knew about the possibility of permanent alopecia in users as early as the 1990s, yet deliberately concealed it to downplay its risks. To make sure that the drug’s sales will continue to increase, its manufacturers gave incentives to doctors to make sure that they will continue prescribing the drug to unsuspecting breast cancer patients.