Sanofi's Latest Challenge: Women Who Say Its Chemotherapy Left Them Permanently Bald

Last Updated Mar 6, 2010 2:51 PM EST

As if drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis (SNY) didn't have enough to worry about -- what with failing heart drugs and major layoffs, among other things -- it's now under fire by a group of women who say they were rendered completely and permanently bald after using the company's chemotherapy drug Taxotere. Taxotere's official prescribing information -- the sheet containing everything relevant known about the drug that doctors look to as a prescribing guide -- makes no mention of permanent alopecia, the technical term for hair loss. In fact, it says the opposite:
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.
The group calls themselves the "Taxotears," and are encouraging women who have lost all their hair to report the adverse events to Sanofi and drug watchdog authorities. They are also gently harassing Sanofi to draw attention to their plight.

One woman, "Taxoterrorist" Shirley Ledlie (an expatriate Brit now living in France), has posted images of her scalp (at right) in the "fan photos" section of Sanofi's Facebook page. She's also messing around on Sanofi's a Facebook wall*:

Sanofi aventis: Hello! Any ideas to make this page a real image for the Sanofi aventis company ?

Shirley Ledlie: I have a good idea about a logo/image you could use the photo of my scalp.

Ledlie and her group want women to be warned about the drug:
We want every woman who's been offered Taxotere to know it is a possibility, so it is her choice whether to take the risk or not.
She's also made a YouTube video showing what the drug did to her: *Apparently that's a fake Sanofi page, not the real thing. Related: