1. Aschenbrenner, Diane S. MS, RN


* Docetaxel, a commonly used IV chemotherapeutic agent, can produce alcohol intoxication. Alcohol is used to dissolve the active ingredients so that the drug can be given intravenously. The amount of alcohol in each dose varies according to the manufacturer.


* Selection of a preparation with lower alcohol content is advisable for certain patients.



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Docetaxel is a chemotherapeutic agent used in the treatment of breast, prostate, stomach, head and neck, and non-small cell lung cancers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a safety warning that IV use of the drug can produce intoxication or cause the patient to feel drunk during and after treatment.


Alcohol is used to dissolve the active ingredients so that docetaxel can be administered intravenously, although the amount of alcohol in a dose varies by manufacturer. For example, the alcohol (ethanol) content in a 200-mg dose of docetaxel manufactured by Pfizer is 6.4 g (the most), whereas Sanofi's preparation is 2 g (the least).


Preparations with less alcohol should be considered in patients who have exhibited alcohol intoxication during administration of docetaxel and those who need to avoid or minimize alcohol intake to prevent injury or adverse effects, including patients who have alcoholism or other problems with drinking, such as concomitant use of medications that would work together with alcohol to depress the central nervous system or liver impairment, which hampers one's ability to process the alcohol.


Nurses should provide education regarding the potential for alcohol intoxication with docetaxel infusions. Patients shouldn't drive or operate machinery for at least two hours after receiving the drug. If a patient does experience signs of intoxication during infusion, the effect can be minimized if the infusion rate is slowed for the remainder of the infusion. Although intoxication isn't common, the FDA has decided to include information about the risk in the drug's labeling.


To read the FDA Drug Safety Communication regarding the new warning, go to