The intravenous chemotherapy drug docetaxel contains ethanol, also known as alcohol, which can cause patients to feel intoxicated, or drunk, during and after treatment, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned in a safety communication. The agency is ordering all docetaxel drug products to add a warning to their safety labels regarding this possible side effect.
Docetaxel is a prescription chemotherapy drug used to treat various types of cancer including breast, prostate, stomach, head and neck, and non-small-cell lung cancers. It is known by the brand names Taxotere and Docefrez. Known as a taxane, the drug works by interfering with microtubules, which are part of the internal structure cells need when they are dividing. This leads to cell death. Since cancer cells divide faster than normal cells, they are more likely to be affected by this drug.
Health care professionals are being advised by the FDA to consider the alcohol content of docetaxel when prescribing or administering the drug to patients, particularly those for whom alcohol intake should be avoided or minimized and when using it in conjunction with other medications. Health care professionals should also be aware of the differences in formulations in order to monitor and counsel patients appropriately.
Patients who are being treated with docetaxel should be advised that the drug may cause them to become intoxicated from the alcohol content and should avoid driving, operating machinery, or performing other activities that are dangerous for at least one to two hours after the infusion of docataxel. Also, patients should be aware that some medications, such as pain relievers and sleep aids, may interact with the alcohol in docetaxel and worsen the intoxicating effects.