By Sandra Dalton, Staff Writer
Many women who survive breast cancer now face permanent baldness caused by a chemo therapy drug they did not have to choose. It is a side effect they were not warned about caused by Taxotere (docetaxel), which some say is inferior to its alternative in treating cancer, but more convenient to take and administer. The risk of permanent alopecia with Taxotere use is somewhere between six and ten percent, depending on the study you read. Taxotere victims are angry because they were not warned or given the chance to make an informed choice.
A group of cancer survivors suffering from permanent chemo-induced hair loss has created a website to help other in the same boat. The site is called A Head of Our Time, and they call themselves “Taxotears”. Their personal stories drive home the damage done by Taxotere, and the failure to warn patient of the side effects.
They expected their hair to grow back. When it didn’t, their doctors were often as baffled as they were. But Taxotere maker Sanofi-Aventis has known about this side effect for years and simply chose not to warn doctors or patients in the U.S. for fear that it would hurt sales of the drug.
Normally, chemotherapy causes temporary hair loss. People expect it and know that their hair will grow back. Even knowing that it will grow back, hair loss is one of the most dreaded side effects of chemo. It is a very emotional loss. For cancer survivors, the return of their hair is a milestone in their victory over the disease. When hair does not grow back, many women feel like they have not fully recovered. And, other people treat them like they are still sick, because they still look sick.
Is it a worthwhile trade-off for being alive? Sure, except that almost no one needed to take Taxotere. There is another drug in its class that is as effective at treating cancer. It is called Taxol (paclitaxel), and some say it is even more effective than Taxotere.
If you or someone you love is suffering with persistent hair loss after chemotherapy, please talk to an experienced defective drug attorney right away to learn more about your rights.