June 20, 2014 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a Safety Communication to warn that docetaxel, an intravenous chemotherapy drug, may cause patients to become intoxicated because it contains ethanol, also known as alcohol.
Docetaxel is a prescription chemotherapy drug used to treat cancers of the breast, prostate, stomach, head and neck, and non-small cell lung cancer.
There are several generic and brand-name versions of the drug, including Taxotere, Docefrez, Docetaxel, and more. These contain different amounts of ethanol, which is used to dissolve the active ingredients so docetaxel can be given intravenously.
The FDA recommends that healthcare professionals should be cautious when administering docetaxel in patients who should avoid alcohol intake. The FDA also recommended precautions for patients:
“Patients should be aware that docetaxel may cause them to become intoxicated from the alcohol it contains. Patients should avoid driving, operating machinery, or performing other activities that are dangerous for one to two hours after the infusion of docetaxel.”
The intoxicating effects of docetaxel may worsen if patients take other medications, such as pain relievers and sleep aids that interact with alcohol.
The FDA reviewed a database of adverse events and found three reports of alcohol intoxication associated with docetaxel. Two patients became intoxicated during intravenous infusion of docetaxel; one patient experienced intoxication within 24 hours. Healthcare professionals can minimize this risk by choosing a docetaxel product with the lowest alcohol content and slowing the infusion rate.
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