Hundreds of lawsuits are currently pending in a multidistrict litigation against pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis, over its breast cancer chemotherapy drug, Taxotere. Plaintiffs allege the company failed to warn them of the risk of permanent hair loss caused by the drug.

The litigation is in the very early stages, but plaintiffs have been given hope that it could come to a resolution sooner than previously expected. The federal judge presiding over the litigation issued a pretrial order establishing Plaintiffs’ and Defendants’ Settlement Committees.

The committees are charged with holding regular meetings to “establish common understandings, potential ground rules, component parts and concepts, anticipated relief, necessary approvals, and ultimately financial details.”

While the appointment of settlement committees does not guarantee a settlement will be reached, it does set up a pathway for a settlement to be reached if the parties can agree.

Taxotere was originally approved by the FDA in 1996 and is used to treat several types of cancer, but is most commonly used to treat breast cancer. While all chemotherapy drugs have a risk of temporary hair loss, some women who have taken Taxotere experienced alopecia, or permanent hair loss.

There are alternative chemotherapy drugs that are equally as effective as Taxotere that do not cause permanent hair loss, but Taxotere remains the most popular medication for treating breast cancer.

Sanofi-Aventis was aware as far back as 2004 that Taxotere could cause permanent hair loss. The company even warned European and Canadian doctors of the risk; however, it failed to warn American doctors until 2015.

The vast majority of Taxotere sales come from American patients. Had the company warned American doctors back in 2004, the company would likely have missed out on millions of sales. However, the company’s decision not to warn American doctors and patients could end up being very costly.