Women who have overcome breast cancer have fought through significant battles, including surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, and many terrible side effects. While many women are able to recover and live long and healthy lives as a result of cancer treatment, some will be permanently reminded of their cancer battle due to the irreversible loss of their hair.
Mental and Emotional Effects of Hair Loss on Taxotere® Patients
Taxotere (docetaxel), which was created by drug manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis, is one of the most-prescribed chemotherapy drugs in the U.S. Of the hundreds of thousands of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, the majority will be prescribed Taxotere® as part of their treatment—and up to 10 percent of these women may suffer hair loss (alopecia) that can last for the rest of their lives.
Hair loss is far from a harmless side effect of a drug: it is a daily reminder of the patient’s struggle with breast cancer. Permanent baldness can change both a patient’s and the public’s view of a person, and can cause other significant losses, including:
- Lost quality of life. Researchers have noted that hair loss is one of the most distressing side effects of cancer treatment, affecting a patient’s mood, well-being, and emotional state.
- Mental health complications. The stress of living with hair loss can cause a patient to suffer anxiety and depression, forcing patients to seek counseling and additional medical treatments.
- Self-image problems. Hair loss can result in body image problems, including a loss of self-esteem and inability to see a positive physical representation of oneself.
- Lost income. Patients who have suffered permanent hair loss may always be seen as a patient or be looked upon as a “sick” person, affecting their ability to return to work.
- Damaged relationships. Hair loss can cause decreased sex drive and problems with intimacy that result in divorce and financial losses, and can also have an effect on friendships and social functioning.
Taxotere Baldness Evidence Mounts Against Sanofi-Aventis
Breast cancer patients across the U.S. are filing lawsuits against Sanofi-Aventis, claiming that the company placed profits above the well-being of patients taking the drug, even going so far as to hide the possible side effects from patients and prescribers. Allegations against the drugmaker include:
- Misleading the public. Many patients have claimed that the company aggressively marketed the advantages of the Taxotere while downplaying the dangers of the drug. Doctors and patients often choose Taxotere for chemotherapy instead of other common drugs because it can be taken less often—once every three weeks instead of once per week. This fact was used heavily in Taxotere’s advertising and marketing campaigns and, according to court documents, hair loss was addressed only as a temporary side effect.
- Failure to warn. Drugmakers have a duty to warn patients and health care providers about any life-altering side effects of a drug. Former Taxotere patients have said that Sanofi-Aventis knew (or should have known) of the increased risk of permanent baldness, but never used the words “permanent hair loss” or “alopecia” in the Taxotere®’s U.S. drug warnings and prescribing information. However, some lawsuits allege that these words were included in the warnings issued to other countries, suggesting that Sanofi-Aventis deliberately hid the risk.
- Inadequate testing. A drug must have undergone clinical trial testing before it can be approved by the FDA. Some plaintiffs claim that the drug was not properly tested, that early trials should have led to further safety testing, that research linking the drug to permanent hair loss was never disclosed, and that the drug was sold without adequate warnings supported by the trials.