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What we now about Taxol

Brand Name(s): Onxol, Taxol

Generic Name Paclitaxel

What is paclitaxel injection?

PACLITAXEL (Taxol®) is chemotherapy agent used to treat Kaposi's sarcoma, breast, ovarian, lung, head and neck cancers, and many other types of cancer. Paclitaxel is made from the needles and bark of certain kinds of yew trees. Paclitaxel interferes with the growth of rapidly dividing cells, like cancer cells, and eventually causes these cells to die. Paclitaxel may be used alone or with other chemotherapy agents or radiation therapy. Generic paclitaxel injections are available.

What should my health care professional know before I receive paclitaxel?

They need to know if you have any of these conditions:

  • blood disorders
  • heart disease, previous heart attack, or irregular heartbeat
  • an active infection
  • tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • previous radiation therapy
  • an unusual or allergic reaction to paclitaxel, polyoxyethylated castor oil (Cremophor®EL), alcohol, other chemotherapy agents, other medicines, foods, dyes, or preservatives
  • pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • breast-feeding

How should I use this medicine?

Paclitaxel is for infusion into a vein. It is usually administered in a hospital or clinic setting by a specially trained health care professional. You will be given an infusion once every 3—4 weeks depending upon your laboratory results. As part of your treatment you will be given another medicine, dexamethasone, to take to help decrease the side effects of your treatment. You will take this medicine 12 and 6 hours before you receive paclitaxel. It is important to take this medicine exactly as instructed. If you forget to take a dose or do not take it on schedule, tell your prescriber or health care professional before you receive your dose of paclitaxel.

Contact your pediatrician or health care professional regarding the use of this medicine in children. Special care may be needed.

What if I miss a dose?

It is important not to miss a dose. Let your prescriber or health care professional know if you are unable to keep an appointment.

What drug(s) may interact with paclitaxel?

  • other chemotherapy agents may increase the side effects seen with paclitaxel.
  • bosentan
  • certain types of medicines used to treat heart problems or high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers, calcium-channel blockers, or digoxin
  • carbamazepine
  • clarithromycin, erythromycin
  • cyclosporine or other immunosuppressive drugs
  • digoxin
  • fluoxetine
  • fluvoxamine
  • medicines to treat HIV including protease inhibitors, delavirdine, efavirenz, or nevirapine
  • montelukast
  • nefazodone
  • phenytoin
  • rifabutin
  • rifampin
  • some medicines used to treat fungal infections (fluconazole, itraconazole, ketoconazole, voriconazole)
  • vaccines

Talk to your prescriber or health care professional before taking any of these medicines:

  • aspirin
  • acetaminophen
  • ibuprofen
  • naproxen
  • ketoprofen

Tell your prescriber or health care professional about all other medicines you are taking, including nonprescription medicines, nutritional supplements, or herbal products. Also tell your prescriber or health care professional if you are a frequent user of drinks with caffeine or alcohol, if you smoke, or if you use illegal drugs. These may affect the way your medicine works. Check with your health care professional before stopping or starting any of your medicines.

What side effects may I notice from receiving paclitaxel?

The side effects you may experience with paclitaxel therapy depend upon the dose, other types of chemotherapy or radiation therapy given, and the disease being treated. Not all of these effects occur in all patients. Discuss any concerns or questions with your prescriber or health care professional.

Side effects that you should report to your prescriber or health care professional as soon as possible:

Rare or uncommon:

  • vomiting
  • chest pain
  • difficulty breathing, wheezing

Common:

  • low blood counts - paclitaxel may decrease the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. You may be at increased risk for infections and bleeding.
  • signs of infection - fever or chills, cough, sore throat, pain or difficulty passing urine
  • signs of decreased platelets or bleeding - bruising, pinpoint red spots on the skin, black tarry stools, blood in the urine
  • signs of decreased red blood cells - unusual weakness or tiredness, fainting spells, lightheadedness
  • mouth or throat sores or ulcers
  • pain, redness, swelling, or irritation at the injection site
  • slow or irregular heartbeat
  • tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet

Side effects that usually do not require medical attention (report to your prescriber or health care professional if they continue or are bothersome):

  • diarrhea
  • complete hair loss
  • muscle or joint aches and pains
  • nausea
  • flushing
  • lower back pain
  • sweating

What should I watch for while taking paclitaxel?

Visit your prescriber or health care professional for regular checks on your progress. You will need to have regular blood checks.

During infusions of paclitaxel there is a risk you will have an allergic reaction. It is important to take the dexamethasone to decrease the chance of this happening. Tell your nurse or health care professional if you begin to have a hard time breathing, feel lightheaded, or develop a rash and itching during your infusion of paclitaxel.

Paclitaxel may make you feel generally unwell. This is because paclitaxel affects good cells as well as cancer cells. Report any side effects as above, but continue your course of medicine even though you feel ill, unless your prescriber or health care professional tells you to stop.

Paclitaxel may decrease your body's ability to fight infections. Call your prescriber or health care professional if you have a fever, chills, sore throat or other symptoms of a cold or flu. Do not treat these symptoms yourself. Try to avoid being around people who are sick. Paclitaxel may increase your risk to bruise or bleed. Call your prescriber or health care professional if you notice any unusual bleeding. Be careful not to cut, bruise or injure yourself because you may get an infection and bleed more than usual.

Avoid taking aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol®), ibuprofen (Advil®), naproxen (Aleve®), or ketoprofen (Orudis® KT) products as these may hide a fever, unless instructed to by your prescriber or health care professional.

Call your prescriber or health care professional if you get diarrhea. Do not treat yourself.

Be careful brushing and flossing your teeth or using a toothpick while receiving paclitaxel because you may get an infection or bleed more easily. If you have any dental work done, tell your dentist you are receiving paclitaxel.

If you are going to have surgery, tell your prescriber or health care professional that you are receiving paclitaxel.

Where can I keep my medicine?

This medicine is given in a hospital or clinic. You will not have to take this medicine at home.


(Note: The above information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional. It is not meant to indicate that the use of the product is safe, appropriate, or effective for you.)

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