Taxotere Side Effects
Although many Taxotere side effects are temporary, one may persist after treatment ends: permanent hair loss, otherwise known as alopecia. However, manufacturer Sanofi didn’t disclose this risk to consumers until the Food and Drug Administration updated the drug’s label in December 2015. As a result, this new warning came nearly 20 years after the drug’s initial FDA approval in 1996.
Taxotere Side Effects: Timing and Duration of Symptoms
Several common chemo drugs cause short-term hair loss while patients receive scheduled doses for weeks or months. However, permanent hair loss is an adverse reaction that’s unique to Taxotere (docetaxel). In fact, medical studies show that permanent hair loss my occur in as much as 9.2% of patients treated with the drug. Significantly, one patient reported no hair regrowth after 10 years and 5 months. In a later 2014 study, medical professionals reported permanent hair loss rates as high as 10-15% in breast cancer patients given Taxotere in 2010. These reports said that “long term hair loss has a significant impact on quality of survival” and that the “risk should be discussed routinely (as part of the process of informed consent) with all patients embarking upon docetaxel as a component of management of EBC.”
Taxotere Side Effects: Temporary Adverse Reactions
While taking Taxotere (or chemo drug combinations including docetaxel, such as TAC), patients may experience the following:
- hair loss
- fluid retention
- low red/white blood cell count
- bloating/weight gain
- pain/burning at the injection site
- bloody nose
- severe skin reactions/peeling
- bad taste in the mouth
- mouth or throat sores
In addition, patients injected with Taxotere are cautioned against drinking alcohol the day of treatment. Because the drug itself contains alcohol, patients may feel “drunk” or become impaired for several hours after it enters the bloodstream. Doctors also caution against combining Taxotere with prescription anxiety, depression or narcotic medications (such as sleeping pills, muscle relaxers or painkillers) to avoid potentiating the depressive effect in one’s central nervous system. Pregnant women should avoid the drug, as it can harm the fetus. Additionally, women should avoid pregnancy for up to six months after chemotherapy ends.
Do Other Taxanes Cause Permanent Hair Loss?
Interestingly, another taxane drug that’s comparable to Taxotere in efficacy (though it may require a greater number of treatments in order to achieve the same results) is Taxol. Studies have shown that Taxol (paclitaxel) doesn’t cause permanent hair loss after patients complete cancer treatment.
In 2006, Dr. Scot Sedlacek of the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers published a study comparing the side effects and survival rates in patients given adjuvant chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. Surprisingly, women prescribed a regimen containing paclitaxel showed zero incidences of persistent alopecia. However, 6.3% of patients given doxorubicin and Taxotere experienced “poor hair regrowth lasting up to 7 years.” Dr. Sedlacek then concluded that patients considering treatment with Taxotere must be properly informed of the potential risk: “Such an emotionally devastating long term toxicity from this combination must be taken into account when deciding on adjuvant chemotherapy programs.”
Cancers Commonly Treated with Taxotere
Doctors may suggest a chemotherapy drug regimen including Taxotere to treat:
- Locally advanced/metastatic breast cancer
- Non-small cell lung cancer
- Head and neck cancer
- Stomach or gastric cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Head and neck cancer
It may also be prescribed in combination with other cytotoxic medications, such as:
- TC (Taxotere and Cytoxan®)
- TAC (Taxotere, Adriamycin® and cyclophosphamide)
- Docetaxel and carboplatin
- Docetaxel and cisplatin
- Xeloda® (capecitabine) and docetaxel
Because other taxane drugs (like Taxol) show similar efficacy to Taxotere, patients should carefully weigh their treatment options. While short-term Taxotere side effects are similar to chemo drugs, knowing about the risk of permanent baldness may help consumers make a more informed decision.
Check your eligibility for compensation.
If you or a loved one has suffered from semi-permanent or permanent hair loss after completing Taxotere chemotherapy, you may be entitled to compensation from the manufacturer. Request your free case evaluation now to see if you may qualify.