Chemotherapy Manufacturer Hid Risk of Permanent Hair Loss, Exaggerated Success Rates, Warns Consumer Safety Watch

Taxotere and Permanent Hair Loss

​​​​Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women. Sadly, one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime and it is the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Over 2.8 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today. According to reports, one chemotherapy manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis, the maker of Taxotere, both may have mislead doctors and patients about the effectiveness of their drug, and hid or failed to inform women and doctors in the United States of a known risk for permanent hair loss after use of the drug.

Cancer Treatment is Big Business

"This profits at any cost behavior failed to allow patients and their doctors access to important information when choosing treatment options."

Alan Christopher, Consumer Safety Advocate

In 2006, the American public paid out $104.1 billion to cover cancer care, the National Cancer Institute reports. Breast cancer treatments accounted for the most of any malignancy, at $13.9 billion. In a review of US cost-of-illness studies for breast cancer, the lifetime per patient costs ranged from $20,000 to in excess of $100,000, with higher costs associated with managing patients with advanced disease. The Susan G. Komen Foundation estimated an average cost of $22,000 to manage the early stages of breast cancer, whereas stages 3 and 4 of the disease are associated with treatment costs in excess of $120,000.

Did Sanofi-Aventis Hide the Risks associated with Taxotere (Docefrez)?

After receiving FDA approval to treat breast cancer in 1996, Taxotere began to generate significant revenue for its manufacturer, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis. In an effort to grow it profits even more, Sanofi-Aventis aggressively marketed their drug both to doctors and patients claiming it was more effective than other drugs in treating breast cancer. In promotional material that the FDA later disputed, Sanofi-Aventis claimed that Taxotere was more effective than other forms of chemotherapy such as paclitaxel in treating breast cancer.

According to a letter from the FDA in 2009 this was the case. In the letter the FDA accused Sanofi-Aventis of marketing “misleading” promotional materials to outsell rival drugs. Sanofi-Aventis made unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of Taxotere. 

The FDA letter stated specifically, "These claims misleadingly suggest that Taxotere is superior to paclitaxel (Taxol) in the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer after failure of prior chemotherapy, and overstate the efficacy of Taxotere."

Did Sanofi-Aventis hide the risk of permanent hair loss from patients and doctors in the United States?

As early as 2005, Sanofi-Aventis was aware that there was a risk of permanent or persistent hair loss associated with their chemotherapy drug Taxotere. Sanofi-Aventis updated their Taxotere warning labels in Canada in 2005 and in Europe in 2012 to include this risk. Yet in the United States, Sanofi-Aventis waited for more than a decade before alerting patients or their doctors. According to Alan Christopher, a consumer safety advocate from Consumer Safety Watch, "This profits at any cost behavior failed to allow patients and their doctors access to important information when choosing treatment options."

Patients should be aware that there are alternatives to Taxotere, such as Taxol, that are not linked to permanent or persistent hair loss. If Taxotere’s warning labels were updated in the United States sooner, thousands of women and their doctors would have had the information necessary to make an informed choice and could have avoided the additional pain of ongoing hair loss following their already devastating experience with breast cancer.

To learn more about the risks associated with Taxotere visit Consumer Safety Watch.

Source: Consumer Safety Watch