Permanent Hair Loss Due To Taxotere

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One of the side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss, but in most patients, the hair will grow back once they are in remission.  However, there are a number of women who underwent chemotherapy while using Taxotere who have suffered from permanent hair loss.  This is the primary reason why many of these women have filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of Taxotere.

Is This Unique To Taxotere?

A lot of people may wonder if this permanent hair loss is something that is unique to Taxotere or if this is something that could happen with any cancer medication.  The truth is that there was an early study done for the Taxotere lawsuit which found that the risks of permanent hair loss were higher than the risks from other medications.  In fact, Taxol, a closely related medicine, which is just as effective showed a lower risk of permanent hair loss and was available at the same time as Taxotere.

The Sedlacek Study

In the early clinical trials of Taxotere which were started in the late 1990’s, it was found that the incidence of permanent hair loss ranged from 3% to 9%.  However, the first studies to look at the link between permanent hair loss and a Taxotere lawsuit were only done in 2006 which is a decade after the FDA approved the use of the drug.  This study was done by Dr. Scot Sedlacek from the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center.

Dr. Sedlacek is a practicing oncologist and looked to investigate the link between permanent hair loss in breast cancer patients and the use of taxane-based medicines with chemotherapy.  At the time of the study, permanent hair loss was thought to be a rare side effect in chemotherapy expect in patients who received high-dose chemo for bone marrow transplants.  However, Sedlacek had seen an increase in cases in a number of patients he had treated over the years who had received a standard dose of chemo.

Data was collected from nearly 500 breast cancer patients that Sedlacek had treated over 11 years.  The patients were group into 3 different groups based on the adjuvant chemotherapy they received.  Group A received a Doxorubicin regimen without any taxane-based therapy and had 258 patients.  Group B received a Doxorubicin regimen with Taxol and had 126 patients.  Group C received Doxorubicin with Taxotere and had 112 patients.

When analyzing the data Sedlacek found that group C had a 6.3% incidence of developing permanent hair loss.  When compared to the FDA and EMA guidelines for side effects this would rank as a common side effect.  Common side effects will have an incidence of 1 to 10%.

The most alarming finding of the study was that patients did not have to receive the complete dose of Taxotere to suffer from the permanent hair loss.  Two of the patients in the study who suffered permanent hair loss only received a single infusion of Taxotere.  None of the patients in the other groups of the study showed signs of permanent hair loss.

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