Taxotere Complications – A Comprehensive Review

taxotere complications

Taxotere: The Basics

Taxotere (generic: docetaxel) is a well-established anti-mitotic chemotherapy medication. However, as a chemotherapy drug, some Taxotere complications and side effects are to be expected. It is part of the family of taxanes, which work to slow cell growth. The drug was FDA approved in 1996; since then, Taxotere has been approved to treat a variety of cancers, including advanced or metastatic breast cancer, head and neck cancer, gastric cancer, hormone-refractory prostate cancer, and non small-cell lung cancer. Approved for use as a single agent, it can also be used in combination with other chemotherapeutic drugs.

Taxotere is administered by a healthcare professional, typically injected into a vein in one-hour sessions every three weeks.

Taxotere Complications: Side Effects of Taxanes

Any drug that inhibits cell division will have serious side effects, since taxanes and anti-mitotic drugs cannot decipher between cancerous or healthy cells. So while taxanes are stopping cell division in harmful tumor cells it is also killing healthy cells such as hair follicles, bone marrow, and other germ cells. Side effects typically dissipate after treatment has ended, though in some cases, side effects may be permanent.

Permanent Alopecia: The Taxotere Hair Loss Side Effect

While Taxotere complications and side effects generally subside after discontinuation of treatment, there is one side effect that may be permanent. A 2012 study showed that in all cases of permanent hair loss following chemotherapy, docetaxel (Taxotere) was involved. The study states, “Chemotherapy-induced alopecia [hair loss] is one of the most distressing/troublesome side-effects of chemotherapy, along with nausea, vomiting and fatigue. It may significantly impact an individual’s self-image with poorer body image.”

As noted below, Taxotere makes no mention of permanent hair loss in their possible side effects, despite the phrase, “in most cases hair growth should return.” For many who have used Taxotere for their chemotherapy however, it is too late. This permanent side effect cannot be reversed and includes eyebrows and eyelashes in addition to hair on the head.

If you or a loved one have experienced permanent alopecia as a result of taking Taxotere, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Lawsuits are currently underway, since Sanofi didn’t clearly communicate this possible side effect to healthcare professionals and patients.

Taxotere Complications and Adverse Reactions

While most taxanes have similar side effects, Taxotere has unique side effects that its competitor drugs do not. Most people do not experience all of the Taxotere side effects listed below, but most will experience some. (Based on the dosage, Taxotere side effects may vary. High doses of the drug will produce more severe side effects.)
The Taxotere packaging has categorized possible side effects into the following categories:

Allergic reactions (affects approximately 1 in 10 patients):

  • Flushing skin reactions, itching
  • Chest tightness, difficulty breathing
  • Fever or chills
  • Back pain
  • Low blood pressure
  • More severe reactions

Very common side effects (experienced in more than 1 in 10 patients):

  •  Infections – decrease in the number of red or white blood cells (which are important in fighting infection) and platelets
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Headache
  • Alteration in sense of taste
  • Inflammation of eye or excessive tearing
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding from nose
  • Sores in mouth
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Indigestion (including diarrhea and constipation)
  • Short term hair loss (with Taxotere, hair loss can be permanent)
  • Muscle aches and pains

The label also lists other Taxotere complications and side effects under the “Very Common” classification. During treatment, these side effects are common and frequent. Healthcare professionals recommend not eating before treatment to relieve nausea, and they suggest eating several small meals in order to control the nausea and vomiting.

Common side effects (experienced in less than 1 in 10, but more than 1 in 100 patients):

  • Oral candidiasis
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Hearing loss
  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Esophagitis
  • Hemorrhage
  • Raised liver enzymes

Uncommon side effects (affects less than 1 in 100, but more than 1 in 1,000 patients):

  • Fainting
  • Infection at injection site (phlebitis)
  • Inflammation of the colon, small intestine, intestinal perforation)

Alcohol Intoxication

Another side effect associated with Taxotere is the possibility for patients to feel intoxicated during or after treatment because of the high levels of ethanol contained in the solution. The FDA warns that healthcare professionals should consider the high alcohol content in docetaxel, particularly for those who are taking other medications that may be affected by the alcohol content. They also warn that patients should avoid “driving, operating machinery, or performing other activities that are dangerous for one to two hours after the infusion of docetaxel.”

Getting a Taxotere Lawsuit Evaluation

Patients with permanent hair loss are filing lawsuits against Taxotere’s manufacturer, Sanofi. That’s because often, patients can choose alternative chemotherapy treatments that don’t cause permanent hair loss. If you had hair loss for two months or longer after receiving Taxotere chemotherapy, you may be eligible to receive payment from the manufacturer. Fill out your Taxotere claim evaluation form today to check your eligibility in under 2 minutes.

Related: Taxotere Side Effects: Unique Permanent Hair Loss Risk

Jared Heath

Jared Heath is the author of The Sound in the Silence. In his role as an SEO content and digital marketing strategist, Jared was directly responsible for managing's editorial calendar and published articles on this website from 2015 to 2016. He is now pursuing a new career as a chiropractor.