CBS News reports that an activist group of female cancer survivors, calling themselves the “Taxotears” claim they have been rendered permanently bald by the chemotherapy drug Taxotere. The cancer drug, which is produced by pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis to treat breast cancer, did not previously list permanent alopecia or hair loss among the known side effects for the drug. The official prescribing information for the pharmaceutical states:
“Loss of hair occurs in most patients taking Taxotere (including the hair on your head, underarm hair, pubic hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes). Hair loss will begin after the first few treatments and varies from patient to patient. Once you have completed all your treatments, hair generally grows back.”
Many of those suffering permanent hair loss have reported their condition to pharmaceutical regulatory agencies and have worked to raise awareness of this under-represented side effect. There have even been reports of some former Taxotere patients goading Sanofi-Aventis on its social media pages. Concerned with the lack of information provided to female patients regarding possible outcomes of treatment with Taxotere; affected women have formed a website; aheadofourtime.org, to “share emotional support, compare medical research and educate health care providers.” Last year, the FDA finally responded to patient concerns by issuing a label change listing permanent alopecia. The new label became effective on November 24, 2015.
It has been estimated that up to 75% of breast cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy have been prescribed Taxotere. Furthermore, research published by the National Cancer Research Institute found that 10-15% patients prescribed the medication suffered permanent hair loss. If you are one such patient, you are not alone.