Taxotere, An Effective, yet Dangerous Cancer Drug

Taxotere (Docetaxel) is a cancer medication that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of a various types of cancer including non-small cell lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, gastric cancer, and head and neck cancer. It is manufactured and marketed by Sanofi-Aventis and was first approved by the FDA in 1996 to specifically treat breast cancer.

Taxotere, which belongs to a family of chemotherapy drugs known as plant alkaloids, is held to be capable of improving the life expectancy and overall life quality of cancer patients due to its ability to interfere with the growth and spread of cancer cells. During chemotherapy treatment, Taxotere works by damaging the RNA or DNA, causing the cells to fail to divide and die – this results to the shrinking of cancerous tumors.

Though effective, Taxotere has been linked to one disfiguring side effect: permanent hair loss, also known as permanent alopecia.

Hair loss is a very common side effect during chemotherapy, but this is just temporary as patients are assured that their hair will grow back three to six months after treatment has stopped. In chemotherapy treatments wherein Taxotere is used, however, a big percentage of women have reported absence of hair growth for as long as ten years after treatment; and they complained not just of baldness, but of “alopecia universalis” or total hair loss on the scalp and body (this means loss eyebrows and eyelashes, and loss of hair growth under arms and around the genital area).

In the lawsuits filed by these women, it is alleged that women from other countries were made aware of Taxotere’s side-effects. In the U.S., however, no published information ever contained the words “alopecia” or “permanent hair loss.” Thus, two among the many legal actions filed against Sanofi-Aventis accuse the manufacturer of concealing information from the public and selling the drug without disclosing its real dangers or risks.

As explained by the law firm Williams Kherkher, these accusations are based on information that Sanofi-Aventis actually knew about the possibility of permanent alopecia in users as early as the 1990s. This, however, was deliberately concealed by the manufacturers to downplay the risks associated with Taxotere.

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