Are You Aware of Taxotere’s Side Effects?

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Researcher: Ariana Arce​

Researcher: Ariana Arce​

Journalist: Aaron Vivanco

Journalist: Aaron Vivanco

Editor: Daniela Polo

Editor: Daniela Polo

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Are You Aware of Taxotere’s Side Effects?

Docetaxel is a chemotherapeutic drug used to treat several cancers, including lung, prostate, and breast. This medication is marketed under different brands: Taxotere, Docefrez, and docetaxel injection.

A bottle of Taxotere outside of its box on a white background.

As with any other medication or treatment, docetaxel has its side effects, and some are more serious than others. If you were treated or were thinking about getting treated with docetaxel, the following information should be familiarized first.

Side Effects

Cancer Research UK reported many different side effects of Taxotere. Learn to distinguish the common and rare ones:

Common side effects

The following side effects are considered common or have occurred in more than 10% of people who were treated with Taxotere:

  • Shortness of breath. You should tell your doctor if you experience this symptom.
  • Risk of infection. Due to decreased white blood cell counts, you might experience muscle aches, headaches, and feeling cold and shivery.
  • Bruising, bleeding, or nosebleeds. Due to decreased platelet counts in the blood. If you are bleeding excessively, you should call your healthcare provider.
  • Allergic reaction. Symptoms may include a skin rash; itching; lip, facial, or throat swelling; breathing difficulties; fever; and chills.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Diarrhea. You should contact your doctor if this symptom goes on for longer than 24 h.

Rare side effects

These are side effects that occur in less than 1% of patients treated with Taxotere:

  • Heart failure
  • Esophageal inflammation May include heartburn and pain when swallowing.

Also, the Food and Drug Administration issued a safety announcement in 2016, which stated that docetaxel contains ethanol that can cause intoxication or feeling drunk during or after treatment. Hence, activities like driving, operating machinery, or other dangerous actions should be avoided for 1–2 h after docetaxel infusion.

From this list of side effects, two have stood out. The use of Taxotere has caused permanent hair loss and eye problems in many patients who are now filing lawsuits against the manufacturing company, Sanofi.

Hair Loss

This symptom is frequently associated with chemotherapy, although its severity can vary. In some cases, it can be permanent, a type of alopecia known as cicatricial alopecia, and occurs when hair follicles are damaged beyond repair.

In a study published by the National Cancer Research Institute in 2014, 15.8% of the patients who received docetaxel treatment had persistent significant scalp hair loss. Out of 134 patients, 5 reported no eyebrow hair regrowth, 2 no eyelash regrowth, 6 no nostril hair regrowth, and 14 no hair regrowth in other body parts such as the legs.

Many people who were treated with docetaxel and experienced severe hair loss started filing lawsuits against Sanofi. The lawsuits allege that the company knew about the risk of permanent hair loss from docetaxel but failed to adequately warn patients and doctors. Many lawsuits were filed that, in 2016, a multidistrict litigation (MDL) was created for Taxotere hair loss claims in the Eastern District of Louisiana. As of March 2023, >10,000 cases have been included in the MDL.

Eye Problems related to Taxotere

A report published in 2001 followed 10 patients with canalicular stenosis (narrowing or obstruction of a part of the tear drainage system in the eye) due to weekly treatments with docetaxel. Moreover, some cases of canalicular stenosis can be extremely severe and it requires surgery.

This condition might result in excessive tearing, recurrent eye infections, and eyelid crusting and discomfort. In fact, according to the study results, 77% of patients treated weekly with docetaxel presented excessive tearing.

This side effect occurred to many people who started filing lawsuits against the company, and these claims were consolidated in a multidistrict litigation. The MDL number: 3023 IN RE: Taxotere (Docetaxel) Eye Injury Products Liability Litigation), and the claims were transferred to the Eastern District of Louisiana.

If you experienced any of these complications after taking Taxotere, either alopecia or eye problems, you may file a lawsuit to receive compensation for your medical expenses and emotional distress. You should contact a legal adviser to help you with your case.