New Motion to Form MDL for Taxotere Cancer Drug that Causes Permanent Alopecia

taxotereTwo lead plaintiffs in the Taxotere (Docetaxel) Products Liability Litigation have filed a motion with the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate cases filed before 30 different federal judges into one MDL in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Plaintiffs Veronica Smith and Kelly Gahan filed the Taxotere MDL Motion (PDF), citing 33 cases pending in 16 federal district courts before 30 different judges.

“Movants anticipate that the number of Taxotere cases will grow exponentially and that thousands of Taxotere cases will be filed in the federal courts, particularly because, at the direction of the FDA, Defendants recently modified the prescribing information for Taxotere to indicate, for the first time in the U.S. label, that the drug may cause permanent hair loss,” the motion says.

Disfiguring hair loss for women

Product liability actions are proliferating in federal courts across the country, charging that the Taxotere breast cancer drug causes unexpected, permanent and disfiguring hair loss in women. Although hair loss is a common temporary side effect of chemotherapy drugs, permanent alopecia is not.

“Defendants failed to update the warnings for Taxotere, failed to disclose the results of additional studies despite learning the facts with respect to the risks of Taxotere, fraudulently concealed the fact that Taxotere caused permanent alopecia unlike other taxanes used for the treatment of breast cancer, and engaged in a fraudulent marketing scheme, which involved paying kickbacks and providing other unlawful incentives to entice physicians to use Taxotere,” the motion says.

The plaintiffs have brought numerous identical claims against the defendants, including products liability for negligence, strict products liability for design and manufacturing defects, strict products liability for failure to warn, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation, strict products liability for misrepresentation, fraud and deceit, and extreme and outrageous conduct/intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The motion argues that the US District Court in New Orleans is the most appropriate because:

  1. Five cases are currently pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
  2. The Eastern District of Louisiana is home to many respected jurists who have expeditiously and successfully handled multidistrict and complex litigation.
  3. The District has sufficient capacity to adjudicate this litigation, as many of the larger MDL cases within the District have been resolved or are drawing to a close.
  4. New Orleans is an easily accessible and convenient forum for the anticipated number of geographically dispersed cases that are on file and expected to be filed.
  5. The Clerk of Court has done a remarkable job in efficiently managing complex multidistrict litigations, many of which involved large numbers of daily filings.

Warnings overseas, but not in the US

Thousands of women of never got the chance to make an informed decision about their cancer treatment because the words “permanent alopecia” or “permanent hair loss” did not appear in any Taxotere information available in the U.S. — even though Sanofi had provided such information to doctors and patients in other countries.

As a direct result of defendants’ fraudulent marketing scheme, the defendants dramatically increased revenue on sales of Docetaxel from $424 million in 2000 to $1.4 billion in 2004.

The best-developed action is Kally Gahan v. Sanofi. The “Sanofi defendants” include:

  • Sanofi S.A. headquartered in Paris, France
  • Aventis Pharma S.A. headquartered in Antony, France
  • Sanofi-Aventis US, Inc. headquartered in Bridgewater, NJ
  • Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC headquartered in Bridgewater, NJ
  • Sanofi US Services Inc. Winthrop US (a subsidiary of Sanofi-Aventis US) headquartered in Bridgewater, NJ.

The product liability action is Case No. 1:16-cv-03038, filed on May 26, 2016 in US District Court in Colorado.


Larry Bodine

Attorney Larry Bodine is Editor of Mass Tort Nexus, and the Editor of The National Trial Lawyers. He is the former Editor in Chief of and the American Bar Association Journal. He is a cum laude graduate of both Seton Hall University Law School and Amherst College.

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