Taxotere (docetaxel) was approved back in 1996 for treatment of breast cancer. It is also approved for the treatment of gastric cancer, prostate cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, and head and neck cancer. It is a chemotherapy drug which works by interfering with cell division. Taxotere works by damaging supporting structures in your cells to stop cell growth or reproduction (in this case, cancer cells). Taxotere makes those supporting structures within the cancer cells very stiff, so that the cells can no longer grow.
Taxotere was developed by Rhone-Poulenc (now Sanofi-Aventis) and is manufactured and marketed by Sanofi-Aventis. In 2010, Sanofi-Aventis reported that Taxotere had been used worldwide to treat more than 1.5 million patients and annual sales of Taxotere were $3.1 billion.
In December of 2015, the FDA warned that there was a potential for permanent hair loss for users of Taxotere as cases of permanent alopecia had been reported, and required an update to the warning on Taxotere.
An independent study in 2006 conducted by Dr. Sedlacek at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers in Colorado, suggested that upwards of 6.3 percent of breast cancer patients experienced persistent significant alopecia (PSA), or that is they grew back less than 50 percent of their hair. While temporary hair loss is a common side effect related to chemotherapy drugs, permanent alopecia is not. Additionally, a study published by the National Cancer Research Institute in 2014 found permanent alopecia in 10-15 percent of patients who took Taxotere.
Due to the reports of permanent hair loss, there is now an investigation underway to determine if and how much Sanofi-Aventis, the manufacturer, knew about Taxotere and permanent hair loss.