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Taxotere Hair Loss

Bald woman suffering from cancer looking throught the hospital window.

Chemotherapy patients have a difficult decision to make, often choosing between the lesser of the evils to rid themselves of cancer for good. While there is inherent risk in any treatment, manufacturers of cancer drugs are legally bound to warn patients and their physicians of all adverse incidents and risks associated with their products.

Research has shown that 3-16% of Taxotere users have suffered permanent hair loss, but the labeling doesn’t carry any warnings for this side effect in the United States.

Taxotere hair loss studies

In recent years, several studies indicate there is a risk of permanent hair loss with the use of Taxotere:

  • Sanofi-Aventis sponsored the GEICAM 9805 study beginning in the late nineties. In 2005, they were aware of data suggesting that 9.2% of patients who took Taxotere had “persistent alopecia, or hair loss, for up to 10 years and 5 months, and in some cases longer.” Yet, they told patients that “hair generally grows back” after using the product.
  • In 2006, Denver oncologist Dr. Sedlacek observed that 6.3% of his breast cancer patients grew back less than 50% of their hair following treatment with the popular combination therapy of Taxotere, Adriamycin and Cytoxan.
  • In 2011, a clinicopathological study of 10 cases published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology warned of “an increasing number of reports of permanent chemotherapy-induced alopecia” related to Taxotere.
  • A study published in the Annals of Oncology in May 2012 identified “permanent and severe alopecia” as “a newly reported complication of the FEC 100-docetaxel [Taxotere] breast cancer regimen.”
  • A questionnaire the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre sent out to Taxotere patients in October 2013 found “significant persistent scalp hair loss” reported by nearly 16% of former users.

Other Taxotere side effects

Male pattern hair loss is not the only risk associated with Taxotere. The list of docetaxel side effects is long.

Nearly all patients experience:

  • Low white blood cell count
  • Some hair loss
  • Anemia

More than half of all users experience:

  • Amenorrhea
  • Fluid retention
  • Neurosensory events with temporary hearing or vision loss

Nearly half of all patients experience:

  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth swelling and sores
  • Nausea
  • Nail changes

About a third of patients experience:

  • Easy bruising and slow blood clotting
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Infections

A small percentage (about 10%) of patients suffer severe adverse reactions like septic death, hemorrhages, severe gastrointestinal cramping, throat pain, or hypersensitivity with rashes, pack pain, fever, chills and chest tightness. A July 2012 study assessing side effects of 38 cancer drugs between 2000 and 2010 published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found a 40% increased risk of death from serious side effects of newer cancer drugs like Avastin, Sutent and Taxotere, compared to older therapies.

Living with permanent alopecia from docetaxel

While the physical side effects of Taxotere use are plain to see, many patients harbor serious emotional side effects like diminished self-confidence and depression. “I don’t even remember the cancer,” 58-year-old Pamela Kirby told The Globe & Mail. Nine years after treatment with Taxotere, she’s living with a head of fine peach fuzz. The Canadian newspaper reports that she has experienced difficulty in her romantic life and embarrassment when her wig has blown off in public. “I will never be well of breast cancer because of this. My life is not over, but my life is drastically changed,” she said. Now she is forever left wondering: “Why wasn’t I given a choice?”

UK Cancer Survivor 56-year-old Shirley Ledlie started a website to help former Taxotere users cope with alopecia and to put pressure on Sanofi-Aventis to take responsibility for putting a defective product on the market and failing to warn patients and their doctors of the product’s risks. “It took me seven years to grieve for my former flame-haired self,” said Ledlie. “For so long, I’d go to sleep in floods of tears and wake up feeling like a freak. Given the choice I would rather have lost my breasts than my hair.”

In addition to forming support groups and speaking out to the media, many women are now filing Taxotere lawsuits to help cope with the psychological effects of disfigurement from permanent hair loss of hair. The first cases appearing in state courts across the country allege that the drug company manufactured and marketed a defective product and knowingly continued to cover up the link between alopecia and the drug once it had been discovered.

Taxotere permanent hair loss

How common is permanent hair loss with Taxotere?

  • Anywhere from 3-15.8%, according to internal and independently conducted studies and surveys.

Did Sanofi fail to warn about alopecia risks?

  • All chemotherapy drugs come with some type of risk, but manufacturers are legally bound to warn physicians and their patients of all known pros and cons so they can make informed decisions on which drugs to use in their treatments. Plaintiffs allege they were not presented with the knowledge that the drug carried the risk of permanent alopecia.
  • “Defendants prayed on one of the most vulnerable groups of individuals at the most difficult time in their lives,” stated one lawsuit. “Defendants obtained billions of dollars in increased revenues at the expense of unwary cancer victims simply hoping to survive their condition and return to a normal life.”

Taxotere permanent baldness resources

  1. – Taxotere Side Effects
  1. Mirror – ‘I’d rather have lost my breasts than my hair’ – Woman devastated after cancer treatment left her bald
  1. Journal of Clinical Oncology – The Price We Pay for Progress: A Meta-Analysis of Harms of Newly Approved Anticancer Drugs
  1. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology – Permanent chemotherapy-induced alopecia: case report and review of the literature.
  1. FDA – Taxotere safety information
  1. UK Telegraph – I survived cancer – but drugs left me with permanent alopecia
  1. The Globe & Mail – Women who took chemo drug say they weren’t warned of permanent hair loss
  1. American Journal of Dermatopathology – Permanent alopecia after systemic chemotherapy: a clinicopathological study of 10 cases.
  1. Annals of Oncology – Permanent scalp alopecia related to breast cancer chemotherapy by sequential fluorouracil/epirubicin/cyclophosphamide (FEC) and docetaxel: a prospective study of 20 patients