"May 14, 2013 -- Actress and activist Angelina Jolie's recent decision to have a preventive double mastectomy highlights the difficult choices facing women who find out they have a high risk for breast cancer because of their genes.
In one single-dose pharmacokinetic study in healthy perimenopausal and postmenopausal female volunteers, throat irritation was reported by 3 of 60 evaluable subjects (5.0%) in the SOLTAMOX™ (tamoxifen citrate) treatment groups while none of the subjects in the tamoxifen reference group reported this event. All events were mild and occurred within an hour after dosing. All events were resolved within 24 hours.
Metastatic Breast Cancer
Increased bone and tumor pain and, also, local disease flare have occurred, which are sometimes associated with a good tumor response. Patients with increased bone pain may require additional analgesics. Patients with soft tissue disease may have sudden increases in the size of preexisting lesions, sometimes associated with marked erythema within and surrounding the lesions and/or the development of new lesions. When they occur, the bone pain or disease flare are seen shortly after starting tamoxifen and generally subside rapidly.
Other adverse reactions which are seen infrequently are hypercalcemia, peripheral edema, distaste for food, pruritus vulvae, depression, dizziness, light-headedness, headache, hair thinning and/or partial hair loss, and vaginal dryness.
The following table summarizes the incidence of adverse reactions reported at a frequency of 2% or greater from clinical trials (Ingle, Pritchard, Buchanan) which compared tamoxifen therapy to ovarian ablation in premenopausal patients with metastatic breast cancer.
|Adverse Reactions*|| TAMOXIFEN
% of Women
| OVARIAN ABLATION
% of Women
n = 100
|*Some women had more than one adverse reaction.|
Male Breast Cancer
Tamoxifen is well tolerated in males with breast cancer. Reports from the literature and case reports suggest that the safety profile of tamoxifen in males is similar to that seen in women. Loss of libido and impotence have resulted in discontinuation of tamoxifen therapy in male patients. Also, in oligospermic males treated with tamoxifen, LH, FSH, testosterone and estrogen levels were elevated. No significant clinical changes were reported.
Adjuvant Breast Cancer
In the NSABP B-14 study, women with axillary node-negative breast cancer were randomized to 5 years of tamoxifen 20 mg/day or placebo following primary surgery. The reported adverse effects are tabulated below (mean follow-up of approximately 6.8 years) showing adverse events more common on tamoxifen than on placebo. The incidence of hot flashes (64% vs. 48%), vaginal discharge (30% vs. 15%), and irregular menses (25% vs. 19%) were higher with tamoxifen compared with placebo. All other adverse effects occurred with similar frequency in the 2 treatment groups, with the exception of thrombotic events; a higher incidence was seen in tamoxifen-treated patients (through 5 years, 1.7% vs. 0.4%). Two of the patients treated with tamoxifen who had thrombotic events died.
In the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) adjuvant breast cancer trial, tamoxifen or placebo was administered for 2 years to women following mastectomy. When compared to placebo, tamoxifen showed a significantly higher incidence of hot flashes (19% vs. 8% for placebo). The incidence of all other adverse reactions was similar in the 2 treatment groups with the exception of thrombocytopenia where the incidence for tamoxifen was 10% vs. 3% for placebo, an observation of borderline statistical significance.
|% of Women|
|Weight Loss (>5%)||23||18|
|Deep Vein Thrombosis||0.8||0.2|
|* Defined as a platelet count of < 100,000/mm3|
In other adjuvant studies, Toronto and tamoxifen Adjuvant Trial Organization (NATO), women received either tamoxifen or no therapy. In the Toronto study, hot flashes were observed in 29% of patients for tamoxifen vs. 1% in the untreated group. In the NATO trial, hot flashes and vaginal bleeding were reported in 2.8% and 2.0% of women, respectively, for tamoxifen vs. 0.2% for each in the untreated group.
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS)
The type and frequency of adverse events in the NSABP B-24 trial were consistent with those observed in the other adjuvant trials conducted with tamoxifen.
Reduction in Breast Cancer Incidence in High Risk Women
In the NSABP P-1 Trial, there was an increase in five serious adverse effects in the tamoxifen group: endometrial cancer (33 cases in the tamoxifen group vs. 14 in the placebo group); pulmonary embolism (18 cases in the tamoxifen group vs. 6 in the placebo group); deep vein thrombosis (30 cases in the tamoxifen group vs. 19 in the placebo group); stroke (34 cases in the tamoxifen group vs. 24 in the placebo group); cataract formation (540 cases in the tamoxifen group vs. 483 in the placebo group) and cataract surgery (101 cases in the tamoxifen group vs. 63 in the placebo group) (See WARNINGS and Table 3 in CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY).
The following table presents the adverse events observed in NSABP P-1 by treatment arm. Only adverse events more common on tamoxifen than placebo are shown.
NSABP P-l Trial: All Adverse Events
|% of Women|
|Self Reported Symptoms||N=64411||N=64691|
|1Number with Quality of Life
2Numbcr with Treatment Follow-up Forms
3Number with Adverse Drug Reaction Forms
In the NSABP P-1 trial, 15.0% and 9.7% of participants receiving tamoxifen and placebo therapy, respectively, withdrew from the trial for medical reasons. The following are the medical reasons for withdrawing from tamoxifen and placebo therapy, respectively: Hot flashes (3.1% vs. 1.5%) and Vaginal Discharge (0.5% vs. 0.1%).
In the NSABP P-1 trial, 8.7% and 9.6% of participants receiving tamoxifen and placebo therapy, respectively, withdrew for non-medical reasons.
On the NSABP P-1 trial, hot flashes of any severity occurred in 68% of women on placebo and in 80% of women on tamoxifen. Severe hot flashes occurred in 28% of women on placebo and 45% of women on tamoxifen. Vaginal discharge occurred in 35% and 55% of women on placebo and tamoxifen respectively; and was severe in 4.5% and 12.3% respectively. There was no difference in the incidence of vaginal bleeding between treatment arms.
Less frequently reported adverse reactions are vaginal bleeding, vaginal discharge, menstrual irregularities, skin rash and headaches. Usually these have not been of sufficient severity to require dosage reduction or discontinuation of treatment. Very rare reports of erythema multiforme, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, bullous pemphigoid, interstitial pneumonitis, and rare reports of hypersensitivity reactions including angioedema have been reported with tamoxifen therapy. In some of these cases, the time to onset was more than one year. Rarely, elevation of serum triglyceride levels, in some cases with pancreatitis, may be associated with the use of tamoxifen (see PRECAUTIONS, Drug/Laboratory Testing Interactions section).
Read the Soltamox (tamoxifen citrate) Side Effects Center for a complete guide to possible side effects »
When tamoxifen is used in combination with coumarin-type anticoagulants, a significant increase in anticoagulant effect may occur. Where such coadministration exists, careful monitoring of the patient's prothrombin time is recommended.
In the NSABP P-1 trial, women who required coumarin-type anticoagulants for any reason were ineligible for participation in the trial (See CONTRAINDICATIONS).
There is an increased risk of thromboembolic events occurring when cytotoxic agents are used in combination with tamoxifen.
Tamoxifen reduced letrozole plasma concentrations by 37%. The effect of tamoxifen on metabolism and excretion of other antineoplastic drugs, such as cyclophosphamide and other drugs that require mixed function oxidases for activation, is not known. Tamoxifen and N-desmethyl tamoxifen plasma concentrations have been shown to be reduced when coadministered with rifampin or aminoglutethimide. Induction of CYP3A4-mediated metabolism is considered to be the mechanism by which these reductions occur; other CYP3A4 inducing agents have not been studied to confirm this effect.
One patient receiving tamoxifen with concomitant phenobarbital exhibited a steady state serum level of tamoxifen lower than that observed for other patients (i.e., 26 ng/mL vs. mean value of 122 ng/mL). However, the clinical significance of this finding is not known. Rifampin induced the metabolism of tamoxifen and significantly reduced the plasma concentrations of tamoxifen in 10 patients. Aminoglutethimide reduces tamoxifen and N-desmethyl tamoxifen plasma concentrations. Medroxyprogesterone reduces plasma concentrations of N-desmethyl, but not tamoxifen.
Concomitant bromocriptine therapy has been shown to elevate serum tamoxifen and N-desmethyl tamoxifen.
Drug/Laboratory Testing Interactions
During postmarketing surveillance, T4 elevations were reported for a few postmenopausal patients which may be explained by increases in thyroid-binding globulin. These elevations were not accompanied by clinical hyperthyroidism.
Variations in the karyopyknotic index on vaginal smears and various degrees of estrogen effect on Pap smears have been infrequently seen in postmenopausal patients given tamoxifen.
In the postmarketing experience with tamoxifen, infrequent cases of hyperlipidemias have been reported. Periodic monitoring of plasma triglycerides and cholesterol may be indicated in patients with pre-existing hyperlipidemias (See ADVERSE REACTIONS Postmarketing experience section).
Last reviewed on RxList: 11/24/2008
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
Additional Soltamox Information
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Find support and advances in treatment.