New York Product Liability Attorneys Ready to Fight for You
If you had Taxotere chemotherapy for breast cancer or any other type of cancer and developed severe visual complications from untreated epiphora, you may be entitled to significant compensation. Take our quiz to find out if you qualify.
A cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Most patients’ thoughts fill with fears of death and leaving life and loved ones behind. Immediately after a cancer diagnosis, some patients get anxious and depressed because they believe they’ll die from cancer.
However, many cancer treatments exist. Some are very effective in completely eradicating cancer or significantly diminishing cancer cells. Chemotherapy is one such treatment.
Recently, the undisclosed side effects of some chemotherapy drugs have come under scrutiny. Cancer survivors who were treated with these drugs are experiencing debilitating and lifelong health problems that research has directly related to the chemotherapy drugs themselves.
One such chemotherapy drug is Taxotere (docetaxel). In 1998, the French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi-Aventis introduced Taxotere as a chemotherapy treatment for advanced (stage IV or metastatic) breast cancer after breast cancer surgery. Taxotere is also used to treat some cases of lung cancer, neck cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer.
Taxotere, in combination with other chemotherapy drugs, is specifically marketed to target these kinds of breast cancer:
- Advanced breast cancer that doesn’t respond to Adriamycin (doxorubicin)
- Advanced breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the breast and body after standard chemotherapy treatment
- Early breast cancer that spreads to the lymph nodes after surgery
Sanofi-Aventis marketed Taxotere aggressively and successfully in the United States, but the company is now being sued for hiding serious and permanent side effects they knew about and for falsely claiming that Taxotere was more effective than other chemotherapy drugs that had the same efficacy with less risk of permanent and debilitating side effects.
One of these serious side effects is epiphora (excessive eye wateriness), which left untreated, has lifelong complications that adversely affect vision.
What is Epiphora?
The overproduction of tears characterizes epiphora. Accompanying symptoms may include blurry vision, light sensitivity, eyelid swelling, redness, and stabbing pains.
Basal tears, which are managed by lacrimal ducts on the upper and lower part of the inner eye, are regularly produced to protect the cornea from dryness, dirt, and debris. When the lacrimal duct system works properly, basal tears simply coat the eye to form this protective barrier.
However, when a lacrimal duct (canaliculus) becomes obstructed or begins to close, basal tears pool in the eyes and spill out continually onto the cheeks.
Can Epiphora Be Treated During Chemotherapy?
Epiphora can be treated as soon as it is diagnosed during chemotherapy. If caught in its earliest stages, epiphora may be effectively treated by an ophthalmologist with topical steroids, such as prednisone, and by continually keeping the canaliculus open with probing and irrigation.
In cases that are more advanced, but still reversible, epiphora is treated using a surgical procedure known as bicanalicular silicone intubation. This procedure involves temporarily (in the case of chemotherapy, for the duration of treatment and up to six weeks after chemotherapy ends when Taxotere is completely out of the system) implanting a semi-rigid, flexible silicone stent in the affected canaliculus to prevent obstruction or closure.
Chemotherapy with Taxotere can be continued after epiphora treatment with no long-term adverse effects on vision or eye function.
However, because Sanofi-Aventis did not disclose epiphora as a side effect of Taxotere, neither cancer patients nor their doctors had the opportunity to choose equally effective chemotherapy alternatives without this serious side effect.
Additionally, since epiphora was not listed as a side effect of Taxotere, patients and their doctors didn’t recognize its seriousness and get early intervention to successfully treat it.
What is Canalicular Stenosis?
If epiphora is not treated shortly after symptoms develop, the canaliculi will continue to shrink until they are completely closed. This condition is known as canalicular stenosis. Once the canaliculi are completely closed, the condition is permanent and irreversible.
Taxotere’s role in the development of canalicular stenosis is likely caused by Taxotere secretions in the eye’s tear film. This causes the canaliculi to stay chronically inflamed because of the constant flow of tears through the lacrimal ducts. Eventually, this inflammation can cause the canaliculi to close completely.
The only known treatment for canalicular stenosis is dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR). This surgery is not only very costly, but it carries many risks and must be regularly evaluated and maintained for the rest of the patient’s life.
DCR involves placing rigid Pyrex glass tubes in the canaliculi to force them open so that basal tear production isn’t impaired.
Risks and Life Impact of DCR
DCR is an invasive surgery that is painful and expensive. Most patients who have DCR suffer debilitating effects after the surgery, affecting both their quality of vision and their quality of life.
DCR surgery risks and long-term effects include:
- Improper nose tissue fusion
- Stent misplacement (which requires further surgery) that leads to visual deficits
- Excessive bleeding
- Damage to the optic nerve or infraorbital vessels, leading to partial or total blindness
- Prominent facial scarring
Ophthalmologists Find Early Link Between Taxotere and Canalicular Stenosis
Sanofi-Aventis didn’t disclose epiphora as a side effect of Taxotere until 2014. However, as early as 2000, ophthalmologists had identified Taxotere as the cause of epiphora and canalicular stenosis, and their research was published widely in medical journals.
One of the leading ophthalmic researchers who identified the Taxotere-epiphora/canalicular stenosis link was Dr. Bita Esmaeli. In the November 8, 2000 edition of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Dr. Esmaeli published “Canalicular Stenosis Secondary to Docetaxel (Taxotere).”
Dr. Esmaeli reported that epiphora was not disclosed by its manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis, as a side effect of Taxotere. He advised doctors of cancer patients who experienced epiphora to immediately refer them to a knowledgeable ophthalmologist (preferably an oculoplastic surgeon) for treatment to prevent canalicular stenosis.
Topical steroid application and frequent (every four to six weeks) canaliculi probing and irrigation, Dr. Esmael discovered, in the early stages of epiphora successfully resolved the condition in 80% of the cancer patients who were receiving Taxotere chemotherapy every three weeks and in 50% of the cancer patients who were receiving Taxotere chemotherapy weekly.
Dr. Esmael strongly recommended that all cancer patients receiving Taxotere chemotherapy either weekly or every three weeks be regularly evaluated by an experienced ophthalmologist to prevent canalicular stenosis from occurring.
Relationship Between Breast Cancer, Taxotere, and Canalicular Stenosis
Since breast cancer patients were most likely to be treated with Taxotere chemotherapy, they have a significantly higher risk of developing epiphora. This is especially true of advanced breast cancer patients who receive weekly Taxotere chemotherapy since higher doses of Taxotere make the development of epiphora more likely.
Epiphora as a side effect of Taxotere chemotherapy was listed as one of the worst. Not only was excessive tearing a concern, but also the effects, which limited reading and driving ability, as well as the ability to wear makeup.
Breast cancer patients who developed epiphora from Taxotere chemotherapy and were not treated for it had a much higher incidence of developing canalicular stenosis during or after chemotherapy. Canalicular stenosis occurred in both breast cancer patients receiving Taxotere chemotherapy weekly and every three weeks, but the rate significantly increased in those receiving weekly Taxotere chemotherapy.
Why is Sanofi-Aventis Being Sued?
Although Sanofi-Aventis knew about Taxotere’s serious side effects, including epiphora, when the chemotherapy drug was introduced in 1998, the pharmaceutical company did not disclose them until 16 years later in 2014.
Sanofi-Aventis willfully misled cancer patients by withholding critical information about Taxotere. This denied cancer patients and their doctors the opportunity to choose similar chemotherapy drugs that did not have these serious side effects and were just as effective.
Sanofi-Aventis should be held accountable for their negligence that has caused adverse physical conditions that still affect the quality of life for cancer patients – especially those with breast cancer – long after the cancer itself was treated.
Let Hotze Runkle PLLC Represent You
Cancer is a scary disease. When it spreads to other parts of the body or is resistant to treatment, it can be even scarier. Cancer patients trust that the drugs used to treat their disease are safe and will not have other long-term harmful effects.
Hotze Runkle PLLC is committed to representing New York cancer patients who developed canalicular stenosis during or after Taxotere chemotherapy. You deserve fair compensation for the debilitating effects of Taxotere you are still living with, long after winning your fight with cancer.
Hotze Runkle PLLC’s product liability lawyers have won over $100 million dollars in compensation for clients just like you who have been the victims of not only cancer, but the willful negligence of drug manufacturers like Sanofi-Aventis.
You are still living with the effects of Taxotere, and you will likely live with them for the rest of your life. With the visual and physical changes you’ve experienced, the quality of your life has been diminished. While we can’t reverse these changes, we can fight for compensation to help you live a better life in spite of them.
Take the quiz to find out if you have a case.