Paclitaxel | Side Effects, Dosage, Uses & More
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Generic Name:

paclitaxel, Injectable solution

All Brands

  • Taxol (Discontinued)
A discontinued drug is a drug that has been taken off the market due to safety issues, shortage of raw materials, or low market demand.
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Highlights for paclitaxel

Injectable solution
1

Paclitaxel is an injectable medication that’s infused into your vein. It’s used to treat certain types of cancers, including ovarian, breast, and lung cancers and Kaposi’s sarcoma.

2

Before receiving paclitaxel injectable solution, tell your doctor if you have liver or heart problems.

3

Your doctor will decide a dose that’s right for you. You’ll receive your infusions of paclitaxel in a clinic or hospital. You won’t take this medicine at home.

4

Common side effects include anemia, hair loss, neuropathy, joint and muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, allergic reaction, diarrhea, mouth or lip sores, infections, swelling of your hands, face, or feet, bleeding (nose bleeds, bleeding in gums, bruises in arms or legs), irritation at the injection site, and low blood pressure.

5

Call your doctor right away if you have severe diarrhea or severe stomach pain. These can be signs of a more serious condition.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

FDA warning

This drug has a Black Box Warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients to potentially dangerous effects.

  • Paclitaxel injectable solution should only be given under the supervision of a doctor who has experience using cancer chemotherapy drugs.
  • Allergic reaction warning. Severe allergic reactions can occur while receiving paclitaxel injectable solution. Symptoms may include:
    • low blood pressure (hypotension)
    • trouble breathing or shortness of breath
    • swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
    • hives (raised bumps) or rash

    Everyone who receives this drug should be treated with certain drugs before their infusion to help prevent these allergic reactions. These drugs include corticosteroids, diphenhydramine, and histamine H2 antagonists.

    Even if you take these drugs, you may still have an allergic reaction to paclitaxel. These reactions can be fatal. Don’t use paclitaxel injectable solution again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it.

  • Low white blood cell count warning. If you have very low white blood cell count, you shouldn’t take paclitaxel injectable solution. Doing so could increase your risk of severe infections. Your doctor will monitor your blood cell counts during your treatment. If they fall below a certain level, your doctor may have to stop paclitaxel and switch you to a different drug.

Abnormal heart rhythm

Paclitaxel injectable solution may cause problems that affect your heart’s rhythm and how it beats. It may be severe enough that you’ll need a pacemaker. If these problems occur while you’re receiving your infusion, your doctor will treat your abnormal heart rhythm. They’ll also continuously monitor your heart with an electrocardiogram (ECG) during your future paclitaxel infusions.

What is paclitaxel?

Paclitaxel injectable solution is a prescription drug. It’s available as an injectable solution, which is only given by a healthcare provider.

This drug may be used as part of a combination therapy. That means you need to take it with other drugs.

Why it's used

Paclitaxel injectable solution is used to treat ovarian, breast, and lung cancer and Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Paclitaxel injectable solution is used to treat advanced ovarian cancer. It’s used in combination with another chemotherapy drug (cisplatin) when it’s used as first-line treatment for ovarian cancer.

How it works

Paclitaxel injectable solution belongs to a group of medications called antineoplastic agents.

More Details

Why it's used

Paclitaxel injectable solution is used to treat ovarian, breast, and lung cancer and Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Paclitaxel injectable solution is used to treat advanced ovarian cancer. It’s used in combination with another chemotherapy drug (cisplatin) when it’s used as first-line treatment for ovarian cancer.

Paclitaxel injectable solution is used to treat breast cancer after combination chemotherapy for advanced (metastatic) disease has failed. It’s also used for a relapse (where the cancer has returned) within 6 months of adjuvant chemotherapy.

Adjuvant chemotherapy is used after the main chemotherapy to lower the chance of cancer coming back.

Paclitaxel injectable solution is used to treat non-small cell lung cancer in people who cannot have surgery or radiation therapy.

Paclitaxel injectable solution is used to treat acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)-related Kaposi’s sarcoma.

How it works

Paclitaxel injectable solution belongs to a group of medications called antineoplastic agents. A class of drugs refers to medications that work similarly. They have a similar chemical structure and are often used to treat similar conditions.

Under normal conditions, the cells in your body divide and grow in an orderly way. Cell division and growth are necessary for the human body to perform its functions and repair itself.

Cancer cells are different from normal cells because they’re not able to control their own growth. A tumor is a mass of unhealthy cells that are dividing and growing fast and in an uncontrolled way. When a tumor invades the surrounding health body tissue, it’s known as a malignant tumor. A malignant tumor can spread (metastasize) from its original site to other parts of the body if not found and treated early.

Paclitaxel disrupts this cell division process. This drug stops the growth and development of cancer cells, eventually causing these cancer cells to die.

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paclitaxel Side Effects

Injectable solution

Most Common Side Effects

The most common side effects that occur with paclitaxel injectable solution include:

  • low red blood cell count (anemia) or feeling weak or tired

  • hair loss

  • numbness, tingling, or burning in your hands or feet (neuropathy)

  • joint and muscle pain

  • nausea and vomiting

  • allergic reaction. Symptoms include:

    • trouble breathing
    • sudden swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat or trouble swallowing
    • hives (raised bumps) or skin rash
  • diarrhea

  • mouth or lip sores (mucositis)

  • infections. If you have a body temperature above 100.4°F or other signs of infection, tell your healthcare provider right away. Symptoms include:

    • fever
    • sore throat
    • cough
    • body aches
  • swelling of your hands, face, or feet

  • bleeding (nose bleeds, bleeding in gums, bruises in arms or legs)

  • irritation at the injection site. Symptoms include:

    • redness
    • tenderness
    • skin discoloration
    • swelling
  • low blood pressure (hypotension)

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious Side Effects

If you experience any of these serious side effects, call your doctor right away. If your symptoms are potentially life threatening, or if you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

  • Heart rhythm problems. Symptoms include:

    • faster than normal heart rate or irregular heart rate
  • Congestive heart failure. Symptoms include:

    • swelling (edema) in your legs and feet
    • weight gain from retaining fluid
    • fast or irregular heart rate
    • tiredness and weakness
    • severe shortness of breath
  • Blood clots. These may occur in the deep veins of the legs (deep vein thrombosis) or in the lungs (pulmonary embolism). Symptoms include:

    • warmth, redness, or swelling of your leg
    • shortness of breath
    • pain when breathing
    • coughing up blood
  • Gastrointestinal problems. Symptoms include:

    • mucositis (mouth or lip sores)
    • stomach cramping
    • stomach swelling
    • severe nausea and vomiting (lasts for over 24–48 hours, and you can’t tolerate a few sips of water)
    • diarrhea
    • constipation
    • inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement
    • chills
    • fever
    • severe stomach pain
  • Severe bone marrow suppression. Paclitaxel injectable solution may cause a decrease in the amount of blood cells that your bone marrow makes (known as bone marrow suppression). This may increase your risk for anemia, a severe infection, or bleeding. Symptoms include:

    • low white blood cells or infection. Symptoms include:
      • fever of 100.5°F or higher (when your temperature is taken by mouth)
      • chills or sweats
      • sore throat
      • nasal congestion
      • cough
      • pain in your sinus area
      • white coating or sores in mouth
      • pain or burning when urinating
      • stomach pain
      • redness or swelling anywhere or at sites of wounds or injuries
    • low platelets or bleeding. Symptoms include:
      • pin-sized red or purple spots on your skin (petechiae)
      • unusual or prolonged bleeding from cuts
      • blood in your urine
      • blood in your stool or black, tarry stools
      • unusually heavy menstrual periods
      • unusual bruising
      • bleeding from your gums or nose
  • Allergic reactions. Your healthcare provider will give you drugs before your paclitaxel infusion to reduce your chance of having an allergic reaction. Symptoms include:

    • trouble breathing
    • sudden swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
    • trouble swallowing
    • hives (raised bumps) or skin rash
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Paclitaxel injectable solution doesn’t cause drowsiness.

You may experience some reactions at the injection site, such as redness, tenderness, skin discoloration, or swelling.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
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paclitaxel May Interact with Other Medications

Injectable solution

Paclitaxel injectable solution can interact with other medications, herbs, or vitamins you might be taking. Your healthcare provider will look out for interactions with your current medications. Always be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, herbs, or vitamins you’re taking.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.
Paclitaxel warnings
liver problems
People with liver problems

People with liver problems may have an increased risk of toxicity, especially bone marrow suppression, if they take this drug. Your doctor will do blood tests to see how well your liver is working. They may adjust your dose or stop your treatment with paclitaxel depending on how well your liver is working.

heart problems
People with heart problems

Paclitaxel injectable solution may increase your risk of heart rhythm problems, which could be serious especially if you already have a heart rate problem. Your doctor will continuously monitor your heart rhythm with an electrocardiogram (ECG) during your infusion if you have heart rate problems.

Pregnant women
Pregnant women

Paclitaxel is a category D pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Studies show a risk of adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. The benefits of taking the drug during pregnancy may outweigh the potential risks in certain cases.

You shouldn’t become pregnant while taking paclitaxel. If you use this drug during pregnancy, it may harm the fetus. Use effective birth control while you’re on this medication.

Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

breast-feeding
Women who are breast-feeding

It isn’t known if paclitaxel passes into breast milk. If it does, it may cause serious effects in a breastfeeding child.

You and your doctor may need to decide if you’ll receive paclitaxel or breastfeed. 

For seniors
For seniors

Seniors who take this drug may have a higher risk of severe bone marrow suppression, severe neuropathy, and cardiovascular events, such as heart failure, irregular heartbeats (ventricular arrhythmia), slow heart rates (bradycardia), and lower blood flow to your heart tissues.

For children
For children

The safety and effectiveness of paclitaxel injectable solution haven’t been established in children younger than 18 years.

Allergies
Allergies

Serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can happen. Anaphylaxis can happen in people who receive paclitaxel injectable solution. Anaphylaxis is a serious medical emergency that can be fatal and must be treated right away.

Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction, including:

  • trouble breathing
  • sudden swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • trouble swallowing
  • hives (raised bumps) or skin rash

Your healthcare provider will give you drugs before your paclitaxel infusion to reduce your chance of having an allergic reaction.

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal.

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How to Take paclitaxel (Dosage)

Injectable solution

Your doctor will determine a dose that’s right for you based on your individual needs. Your general health may affect your dose. Tell your doctor about all health conditions you have before your doctor or nurse administers the drug to you.

Your dose is determined by your body surface area and the type of cancer that you’re being treated for. Body surface area is calculated using your height and weight, so your dose is individualized for you.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Paclitaxel injectable solution comes with serious risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you don't It at all, miss a dose, stop taking it, or don't take it on schedule

If you don’t receive your paclitaxel infusion, your cancer may not be treated or cured or it may come back. Paclitaxel is used to kill cancer cells in your body. Receiving your dose on schedule is important to help cure, treat, or prevent your cancer from reoccurring or spreading to other areas of your body.

If you take too much

If you receive too much paclitaxel, you may experience:

  • bone marrow suppression
  • numbness, tingling, or burning in your hands or feet (neuropathy)
  • mouth or lip sores (mucositis)

If you have an overdose, your doctor will treat whatever symptoms you’re experiencing until you recover.

If you think that you’ve received too much of the drug, tell your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.

What to do if you miss a dose or appointment

If you miss a dose or appointment, call your doctor right away to find out what to do.

How to tell the drug is working

Your doctor will do blood tests and imaging studies to monitor your progress with cancer treatment. Your doctor will tell you if the drug is working to treat your cancer.

Paclitaxel may be short-term or long-term treatment depending on the type and stage of cancer that’s being treated.

How long does it take?

Your appointment may take longer than the time for the infusion. The time it takes to give an infusion of paclitaxel injectable solution varies depending on what type of cancer is being treated.

It may take between 3–24 hours to give an infusion of paclitaxel into your vein. You may need to wait for laboratory test results to come back and for your dose to be prepared before your infusion.

Before you receive an infusion of paclitaxel injectable solution, you’ll need to take certain medications to prevent severe allergic (hypersensitivity) reactions. These medications may include dexamethasone, diphenhydramine, and cimetidine or ranitidine. These medications will be administered between 30 minutes to 12 hours before your paclitaxel infusion.

Your doctor may also have you to stay for a period of time after your infusion to monitor you for side effects or reactions.

Can I drive home after?

This medication may make you feel weak or tired. You may need a ride home after receiving an infusion of paclitaxel.

Travel

If you plan to travel, talk to your doctor. You may need to make your travel plans around your paclitaxel schedule. Paclitaxel injectable solution should only be given by a healthcare provider that knows your medical history and has experience with cancer chemotherapy drugs, and at a location with medical support to manage infusion reactions (which could be fatal).

You may need additional tests

Your doctor will order tests to check your health and make sure this drug is safe for you. They include:

  • complete blood cell count. This checks for infections, anemia, and bleeding problems.
  • liver function tests and bilirubin to tell how well your liver is working. Depending on how severe your liver disease is, your doctor may adjust your dose or choose to not give you paclitaxel.
  • electrocardiogram (ECG). This test checks for heart rhythm or conduction problems.

Clinical monitoring

Your doctor will monitor you. Before starting and during treatment with paclitaxel injectable solution, your doctor will monitor you for:

  • tissue damage (extravasation): If this drug leaks into nearby tissue during the infusion, it may cause severe damage and irritation. Your doctor will monitor you for reactions at the injection site. Let your doctor know right away if you have any of these symptoms in the place where the drug was injected:
    • redness
    • swelling
    • skin discoloration
    • pain or tenderness
  • complete blood cell count. This checks for infections, anemia, and bleeding problems.
  • liver function tests and bilirubin to tell how well your liver is working. Depending on how severe your liver disease is, your doctor may adjust your dose or choose to not give you paclitaxel.
  • electrocardiogram (ECG). This test checks for heart rhythm or conduction problems.
  • allergic reactions. Serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can happen in people who receive paclitaxel injectable solution. Tell your doctor right away if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction:
    • trouble breathing
    • sudden swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
    • trouble swallowing
    • hives (raised bumps) or skin rash

Insurance

Some insurance companies may require a prior authorization. They will need this before they approve the prescription and pay for paclitaxel injectable solution.

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How Much Does paclitaxel Cost?

Injectable solution

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Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on August 24, 2015

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
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