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Doxil Side Effects Center

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Doxil (doxorubicin HCl liposome injection) is used to treat metastatic ovarian cancer and AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. It is a cancer (antineoplastic) medication. Common side effects include body aches/pains, headache, nausea or vomiting (may be severe), constipation, diarrhea, stomach upset, and loss of appetite. It may also cause urine, tears, and sweat to have a reddish-orange color. Temporary hair loss may occur. Normal hair growth should return after treatment has ended.

Doxil is only administered under the supervision of a physician experienced in the use of cancer chemotherapeutic agents. Dose and frequency of treatment depends on the condition being treated and the patient's response. Doxil may interact with "live" vaccines. Other drugs may also interact with Doxil. Talk to your doctor before taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines, or supplements. Doxil is not recommended for use during pregnancy. It may harm a fetus. Men and women should use two effective forms of birth control (e.g., condoms and birth control pills) while being treated with Doxil and for some time afterward. It is not known whether this drug passes into breast milk. Breast-feeding while using this drug is not recommended.

Our Doxil (doxorubicin HCl liposome injection) Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What is Patient Information in Detail?

Easy-to-read and understand detailed drug information and pill images for the patient or caregiver from Cerner Multum.

Doxil in Detail - Patient Information: Side Effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Some side effects may occur during the injection. Tell your caregiver right away if you feel dizzy, nauseated, light-headed, sweaty, or have a headache, chest tightness, back pain, trouble breathing, or swelling in your face.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • pain, redness, swelling, blistering, or peeling skin on your hands or feet;
  • feeling short of breath (even with mild exertion), swelling, rapid weight gain;
  • fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms;
  • white patches or sores inside your mouth or on your lips;
  • easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), purple or red pinpoint spots under your skin; or
  • pale skin, feeling light-headed or short of breath, rapid heart rate, trouble concentrating.

Doxorubicin liposomal may cause your urine to turn a reddish-orange color. This side effect by itself is usually not harmful. However, call your doctor if you also have upper stomach pain, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes).

Common side effects may include:

  • tired feeling;
  • loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting;
  • constipation, diarrhea; or
  • temporary hair loss.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Read the entire detailed patient monograph for Doxil (Doxorubicin Hcl Liposome Injection) »

What is Patient Information Overview?

A concise overview of the drug for the patient or caregiver from First DataBank.

Doxil Overview - Patient Information: Side Effects

SIDE EFFECTS: Body aches/pains, headache, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, stomach upset, and loss of appetite may occur. Nausea and vomiting can be severe. In some cases, drug therapy may be needed to prevent or relieve nausea and vomiting. Not eating before your treatment may help relieve vomiting. Changes in diet and lifestyle, such as eating several small meals and limiting activity, may help lessen some of these effects. If any of these effects continue or worsen, notify your doctor or pharmacist.

Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.

This medication may give a reddish-orange color to your urine, tears, and sweat. This is a normal effect of the drug and should not be mistaken for blood in your urine.

Treatment with this drug may sometimes cause your hands/feet to develop a skin reaction called hand-foot syndrome (palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia). Notify your doctor promptly if you experience swelling, pain, redness, dryness, peeling, blisters, or tingling/burning of the hands/feet. The symptoms can be made worse by heat/pressure on your hands/feet. Avoid prolonged sun exposure, tanning booths, and sunlamps, as well as unnecessary exposure to heat (e.g., hot dishwater, long hot baths). Avoid pressure on elbows, knees, and soles of feet (e.g., leaning on elbows, kneeling, long walks). Wear loose clothing. Depending on how severe your hand-foot syndrome is, your doctor may give you something to reduce the symptoms, or decrease or delay your next dose of liposomal doxorubicin.

Temporary hair loss may occur. Normal hair growth should return several months after treatment has ended.

Tell your doctor right away if you have any serious side effects, including: drowsiness, trouble sleeping, mental/mood changes (e.g., anxiety, confusion, depression), cough/hoarseness, redness/pain/swelling of arms/legs, eye redness/itching, unusual tiredness, swelling of ankles/feet, painful/difficult urination, stomach/abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin/eyes, dark urine, black/tarry stools, bloody mucus or discharge in stools, vision changes (e.g., blindness), fast/irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath.

Painful swelling or sores on the lips, mouth and throat may occur. To decrease the risk, limit hot foods and drinks, brush your teeth carefully, avoid using mouthwash that contains alcohol, and rinse your mouth frequently with cool water.

Get medical help right away if this rare but very serious side effect occurs: chest pain.

Within days to weeks after doxorubicin treatment, a serious skin reaction that looks likes a severe sunburn (radiation recall) may develop on any area of skin that has been previously treated with radiation. Tell your doctor immediately if you develop skin redness, pain, tenderness, swelling, peeling, or blisters. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help your skin heal faster and reduce the swelling. Sunlight may worsen any skin reactions that may occur while you are using this drug. Avoid prolonged sun exposure, tanning booths and sunlamps. Use a sunscreen and wear protective clothing when outdoors.

In children, radiation recall may occur in the lungs. Tell the doctor immediately if you notice wheezing or trouble breathing in the child.

Very rarely, people with cancer who are treated with this type of medication have developed other cancers (such as secondary leukemia, oral cancer). Your risk is greater if you have received this medication long-term (more than 1 year), or with certain types of chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Consult your doctor for more details.

A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is unlikely, but fatal reactions have rarely occurred. Get medical help right away if you notice symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, which may include: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.

This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

In the US -

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

In Canada - Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.

Read the entire patient information overview for Doxil (Doxorubicin Hcl Liposome Injection)»

What is Prescribing information?

The FDA package insert formatted in easy-to-find categories for health professionals and clinicians.

Doxil FDA Prescribing Information: Side Effects
(Adverse Reactions)


Overall Adverse Reactions Profile

The following adverse reactions are discussed in more detail in other sections of the labeling.

The most common adverse reactions observed with DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) are asthenia, fatigue, fever, nausea, stomatitis, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, anorexia, hand-foot syndrome, rash and neutropenia, thrombocytopenia and anemia.

The most common serious adverse reactions observed with DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) are described in Section 6.2.

The safety data described below reflect exposure to DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) in 1310 patients including: 239 patients with ovarian cancer, 753 patients with AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma and 318 patients with multiple myeloma [see ADVERSE REACTIONS in Clinical Trials].

Adverse Reactions in Clinical Trials

Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, the adverse reaction rates observed cannot be directly compared to rates on other clinical trials and may not reflect the rates observed in clinical practice.

The following tables present adverse reactions from clinical trials of DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) in ovarian cancer and AIDS-Related Kaposi's sarcoma.

Patients With Ovarian Cancer

The safety data described below are from 239 patients with ovarian cancer treated with DOXIL (doxorubicin HCl liposome injection) at 50 mg/m² once every 4 weeks for a minimum of 4 courses in a randomized, multicenter, open-label study. In this study, patients received DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) for a median number of 98.0 days (range 1-785 days). The population studied was 27-87 years of age, 91% Caucasian, 6% Black and 3% Hispanic and other.

Table 6 presents the hematologic adverse reactions from the randomized study of DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) compared to topotecan.

Table 6: Ovarian Cancer Randomized Study Hematology Data Reported in Patients With Ovarian Cancer

  DOXIL Patients
(n = 239)
Patients (n = 235)
  500 - < 1000/mm³ 19 (7.9%) 33 (14.0%)
   < 500/mm³ 10 (4.2%) 146 (62.1%)
  6.5 - < 8 g/dL 13 (5.4%) 59 (25.1%)
   < 6.5 g/dL 1 (0.4%) 10 (4.3%)
  10,000 - < 50,000/mm³ 3 (1.3%) 40 (17.0%)
   < 10,000/mm³ 0 (0.0%) 40 (17.0%)

Table 7 presents a comparative profile of the non-hematologic adverse reactions from the randomized study of DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) compared to topotecan.

Table 7: Ovarian Cancer Randomized Study

Adverse Reaction
10% or Greater
DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) (%)
(n =239)
Topotecan (%)
  All grades Grades 3-4 All grades Grades 3-4
Body as a Whole
  Asthenia 40.2 7.1 51.5 8.1
  Fever 21.3 0.8 30.6 5.5
  Mucous Membrane 14.2 3.8 3.4 0
  Back Pain 11.7 1.7 10.2 0.9
  Infection 11.7 2.1 6.4 0.9
  Headache 10.5 0.8 14.9 0
  Nausea 46.0 5.4 63.0 8.1
  Stomatitis 41.4 8.3 15.3 0.4
  Vomiting 32.6 7.9 43.8 9.8
  Diarrhea 20.9 2.5 34.9 4.2
  Anorexia 20.1 2.5 21.7 1.3
  Dyspepsia 12.1 0.8 14.0 0
  Dizziness 4.2 0 10.2 0
  Pharyngitis 15.9 0 17.9 0.4
  Dyspnea 15.1 4.1 23.4 4.3
  Cough increased 9.6 0 11.5 0
Skin and Appendages
  Hand-foot syndrome 50.6 23.8 0.9 0
  Rash 28.5 4.2 12.3 0.4
  Alopecia 19.2 N/A 52.3 N/A

The following additional adverse reactions (not in table) were observed in patients with ovarian cancer with doses administered every four weeks.

Incidence 1% to 10%

Cardiovascular: vasodilation, tachycardia, deep thrombophlebitis, hypotension, cardiac arrest.

Digestive: oral moniliasis, mouth ulceration, esophagitis, dysphagia, rectal bleeding, ileus.

Hemic and Lymphatic: ecchymosis.

Metabolic and Nutritional: dehydration, weight loss, hyperbilirubinemia, hypokalemia, hypercalcemia, hyponatremia.

Nervous: somnolence, dizziness, depression.

Respiratory: rhinitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, epistaxis.

Skin and Appendages: pruritus, skin discoloration, vesiculobullous rash, maculopapular rash, exfoliative dermatitis, herpes zoster, dry skin, herpes simplex, fungal dermatitis, furunculosis, acne.

Special Senses: conjunctivitis, taste perversion, dry eyes.

Urinary: urinary tract infection, hematuria, vaginal moniliasis.

Patients With AIDS-Related Kaposi's Sarcoma

The safety data below is based on the experience reported in 753 patients with AIDSrelated Kaposi's sarcoma enrolled in four studies. The median age of the population was 38.7 years (range 24-70 years), which was 99% male, 1% female, 88% Caucasian, 6% Hispanic, 4% Black, and 2% Asian/other/unknown. The majority of patients were treated with 20 mg/m² of DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) every two to three weeks. The median time on study was 127 days and ranged from 1 to 811 days. The median cumulative dose was 120 mg/m² and ranged from 3.3 to 798.6 mg/m². Twenty-six patients (3.0%) received cumulative doses of greater than 450 mg/m².

Of these 753 patients, 61.2% were considered poor risk for KS tumor burden, 91.5% poor for immune system, and 46.9% for systemic illness; 36.2% were poor risk for all three categories. Patients' median CD4 count was 21.0 cells/mm³, with 50.8% of patients having less than 50 cells/mm³. The mean absolute neutrophil count at study entry was approximately 3,000 cells/mm³.

Patients received a variety of potentially myelotoxic drugs in combination with DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) . Of the 693 patients with concomitant medication information, 58.7% were on one or more antiretroviral medications; 34.9% patients were on zidovudine (AZT), 20.8% on didanosine (ddI), 16.5% on zalcitabine (ddC), and 9.5% on stavudine (D4T). A total of 85.1% patients were on PCP prophylaxis, most (54.4%) on sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim. Eighty-five percent of patients were receiving antifungal medications, primarily fluconazole (75.8%). Seventy-two percent of patients were receiving antivirals, 56.3% acyclovir, 29% ganciclovir, and 16% foscarnet. In addition, 47.8% patients received colony-stimulating factors (sargramostim/filgrastim) sometime during their course of treatment.

Adverse reactions led to discontinuation of treatment in 5% of patients with AIDS related Kaposi's sarcoma. Those that did so included bone marrow suppression, cardiac adverse reactions, infusion-related reactions, toxoplasmosis, HFS, pneumonia, cough/dyspnea, fatigue, optic neuritis, progression of a non-KS tumor, allergy to penicillin, and unspecified reasons.

Table 8: Hematology Data Reported in Patients With AIDS-Related Kaposi's Sarcoma

  Patients With Refractory or
Intolerant AIDS-Related
(n = 74)
Total Patients With
(n = 720)
   < 1000/mm³ 34 (45.9%) 352 (48.9%)
   < 500/mm³ 8 (10.8%) 96 (13.3%)
   < 10 g/dL 43 (58.1%) 399 (55.4%)
   < 8 g/dL 12 (16.2%) 131 (18.2%)
   < 150,000/mm³ 45 (60.8%) 439 (60.9%)
   < 25,000/mm³ 1 (1.4%) 30 (4.2%)

Table 9: Probably and Possibly Drug-Related Non-Hematologic Adverse Reactions Reported in ≥ 5% of Patients With AIDS-Related Kaposi's

Adverse Reactions Patients With Refractory
or IntolerantAIDS-Related
Kaposi's (n = 77)
Total Patients With
(n = 705)
Nausea 14 (18.2%) 119 (16.9%)
Asthenia 5 (6.5%) 70 (9.9%)
Fever 6 (7.8%) 64 (9.1%)
Alopecia 7 (9.1%) 63 (8.9%)
Alkaline Phosphatase Increase 1 (1.3%) 55 (7.8%)
Vomiting 6 (7.8%) 55 (7.8%)
Diarrhea 4 (5.2%) 55 (7.8%)
Stomatitis 4 (5.2%) 48 (6.8%)
Oral Moniliasis 1 (1.3%) 39 (5.5%)

The following additional (not in table) adverse reactions were observed in patients with AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma.

Incidence 1% to 5%

Body as a Whole: headache, back pain, infection, allergic reaction, chills.

Cardiovascular: chest pain, hypotension, tachycardia.

Cutaneous: herpes simplex, rash, itching.

Digestive: mouth ulceration, anorexia, dysphagia.

Metabolic and Nutritional: SGPT increase, weight loss, hyperbilirubinemia.

Other: dyspnea, pneumonia, dizziness, somnolence.

Incidence Less Than 1%

Body As A Whole: sepsis, moniliasis, cryptococcosis.

Cardiovascular: thrombophlebitis, cardiomyopathy, palpitation, bundle branch block, congestive heart failure, heart arrest, thrombosis, ventricular arrhythmia.

Digestive: hepatitis.

Metabolic and Nutritional Disorders: dehydration

Respiratory: cough increase, pharyngitis.

Skin and Appendages: maculopapular rash, herpes zoster.

Special Senses: taste perversion, conjunctivitis.

Patients With Multiple Myeloma

The safety data below are from 318 patients treated with DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) (30 mg/m² as a 1-hr i.v. infusion) administered on day 4 following bortezomib (1.3 mg/m² i.v. bolus on days 1, 4, 8 and 11) every three weeks, in a randomized, open-label, multicenter study. In this study, patients in the DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) + bortezomib combination group were treated for a median number of 138 days (range 21-410 days). The population was 28-85 years of age, 58% male, 42% female, 90% Caucasian, 6% Black, and 4% Asian and other. Table 10 lists adverse reactions reported in 10% or more of patients treated with DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) in combination with bortezomib for multiple myeloma.

Table 10. Frequency of treatment emergent adverse reactions reported in ≥ 10% patients treated for multiple myeloma with DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) in combination with bortezomib, by Severity, Body System, and MedDRA Terminology.

Adverse Reaction DOXIL + bortezomib
Any (%) Grade 3 Grade 4 Any (%) Grade 3 Grade 4
Blood and lymphatic system disorders
Neutropenia 36 22 10 22 11 5
Thrombocytopenia 33 11 13 28 9 8
Anemia 25 7 2 21 8 2
General disorders and administration site conditions
Fatigue 36 6 1 28 3 0
Pyrexia 31 1 0 22 1 0
Asthenia 22 6 0 18 4 0
Gastrointestinal disorders
Nausea 48 3 0 40 1 0
Diarrhea 46 7 0 39 5 0
Vomiting 32 4 0 22 1 0
Constipation 31 1 0 31 1 0
Mucositis/Stomatitis 20 2 0 5 < 1 0
Abdominal pain 11 1 0 8 1 0
Infections and infestations
Herpes zoster 11 2 0 9 2 0
Herpes simplex 10 0 0 6 1 0
Weight decreased 12 0 0 4 0 0
Metabolism and Nutritional disorders
Anorexia 19 2 0 14 < 1 0
Nervous system disorders            
Peripheral Neuropathy* 42 7 < 1 45 10 1
Neuralgia 17 3 0 20 4 1
Paresthesia/dysesthesia 13 < 1 0 10 0 0
Respiratory, thoracic and mediastinal disorders
Cough 18 0 0 12 0 0
Skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders
Rash** 22 1 0 18 1 0
Hand-foot syndrome 19 6 0 < 1 0 0
*Peripheral neuropathy includes the following adverse reactions: peripheral sensory neuropathy, neuropathy peripheral, polyneuropathy, peripheral motor neuropathy, and neuropathy NOS.
**Rash includes the following adverse reactions: rash, rash erythematous, rash macular, rash maculo-papular, rash pruritic, exfoliative rash, and rash generalized.

Post Marketing Experience

The following additional adverse reactions have been identified during post approval use of DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) . Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure.

Musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue Disorders: rare cases of muscle spasms.

Respiratory, Thoracic and Mediastinal Disorders: rare cases of pulmonary embolism (in some cases fatal).

Hematologic disorders: Secondary acute myelogenous leukemia with and without fatal outcome has been reported in patients whose treatment included DOXIL (doxorubicin hcl liposome injection) .

Skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders: rare cases of erythema multiforme, Stevens- Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis have been reported.

Read the entire FDA prescribing information for Doxil (Doxorubicin Hcl Liposome Injection) »


Doxil - User Reviews

Doxil User Reviews

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Here is a collection of user reviews for the medication Doxil sorted by most helpful. Patient Discussions FAQs

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