Taxotere suits consolidated in Louisiana federal court for pretrial

On behalf of Dennis Reich at Reich & Binstock LLP

Many cancer survivors are alleging they were not adequately warned of the risk of permanent hair loss from using the chemotherapy drug.

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On October 4, 2016, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered that 33 federal lawsuits from across the country all alleging injury from the chemotherapy drug Taxotere be transferred to one federal court in Louisiana for consolidated pretrial proceedings. The MDL Panel found that the Taxotere cases involve common questions of fact involving permanent hair loss, known as alopecia, associated with the drug, and that consolidation will be more efficient as well as convenient for parties and witnesses.

Multidistrict litigation or MDL

Pretrial consolidation of factually similar federal lawsuits through the multidistrict litigation process is designed to conserve resources and efficiencies of the courts, lawyers, witnesses and parties. For example, instead of each individual suit going through the discovery process through which the parties gather evidence and uncover relevant facts before going to trial (or perhaps settling the case once the evidence is clear), discovery only has to happen once in consolidation because the evidence issues are going to be largely identical for all the suits involved.

MDL is a logical process in cases where many people have been allegedly harmed by the same drug as in the Taxotere lawsuits.

Once the pretrial process in MDL is complete, suits not settled or otherwise terminated normally go back to their original federal trial courts for trial.

Federal Taxotere suits consolidated in Louisiana

According to the panel's order, all parties agreed that centralization of the litigation would be appropriate. The lawsuits allege that Taxotere caused the plaintiffs to have permanent hair loss; that the manufacturer knew this could be a side effect and did not warn patients of this possibility; and that the manufacturer falsely marketed the drug as more effective than other similar medications that are without the risk of permanent hair loss.

The order elaborated that discovery can be consolidated involving "design, testing, manufacturing, marketing, and labeling of Taxotere."

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana has established a website to keep the public informed of the progress of the consolidated MDL cases.

The problem with Taxotere

Sanofi-Aventis, a major pharmaceutical company based in France, makes and markets Taxotere, which is the brand name for the drug docetaxel. Taxotere is a chemotherapy drug that is administered intravenously every three weeks to treat mostly breast cancer, but also other kinds of cancer like prostate, stomach, lung and others.

In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or FDA sent a warning letter to the Sanofi-Aventis that found that the drug had been mislabeled by stating its superiority to a similar drug without substantial evidence.

In addition, according to The Trial Lawyer, plaintiffs are alleging that they and their doctors were not adequately warned of the danger that hair loss from Taxotere could be permanent instead of temporary. The article also cites an allegation that the drug maker disclosed the dangerous side effect in other countries, but not to U.S. users.

Finally, in December 2015, the FDA required that a warning about the chance of permanent hair loss be added to Taxotere's warning label.

Seek legal advice

Anyone who has undergone chemotherapy treatment using Taxotere and is suffering from permanent hair loss should speak with a personal injury attorney to learn about potential legal remedies, including the possibility of joining the multidistrict litigation in Louisiana.

The lawyers of Reich and Binstock in Houston, Texas, represent clients who have been injured by dangerous drugs throughout the state.