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Daunorubicin Side Effects

For the Consumer

Applies to daunorubicin: intravenous powder for solution, intravenous solution

Along with its needed effects, daunorubicin may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Also, because of the way these medicines act on the body, there is a chance that they might cause other unwanted effects that may not occur until months or years after the medicine is used. These delayed effects may include certain types of cancer, such as leukemia. Discuss these possible effects with your doctor.

Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur while taking daunorubicin:

Less Common

  • Cough or hoarseness
  • fever or chills
  • irregular heartbeat
  • lower back or side pain
  • pain at place of injection
  • painful or difficult urination
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of feet and lower legs


  • Black, tarry stools
  • blood in urine or stools
  • pinpoint red spots on skin
  • unusual bleeding or bruising

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur while taking daunorubicin:

More Common

  • Sores in mouth and on lips

Less Common

  • Joint pain


Some side effects of daunorubicin may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More Common

Less Common or Rare

Daunorubicin causes the urine to turn reddish in color, which may stain clothes. This is not blood. It is perfectly normal and lasts for only 1 or 2 days after each dose is given.

This medicine often causes a temporary and total loss of hair. After treatment with daunorubicin has ended, normal hair growth should return.

After you stop using this medicine, it may still produce some side effects that need attention. During this period of time, check with your doctor immediately if you notice the following side effects:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of feet and lower legs

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to daunorubicin: intravenous powder for injection, intravenous solution


In general, two main dose-limiting toxicities have been reported: myelosuppression and cumulative cardiotoxicity. Acute febrile drug reactions have occurred in up to 50% of patients (probably represent reactions to histamine release), but are not generally observed with steroid and other premedications.[Ref]

The main metabolite, daunorubicinol, has only approximately one tenth the toxicity of the parent compound.[Ref]


Hematologic side effects can be expected after therapeutic doses. Daunorubicin is a potent bone marrow suppressant, and can cause significant reductions in all bone marrow cell lines for one to two weeks after therapy. Persistent, severe myelosuppression may result in superinfection, hemorrhage, and/or death.[Ref]


Cardiovascular side effects usually present as congestive heart failure, especially after total doses of 550 mg/m2 (400 mg/m2 if there is a history of radiation therapy that included the heart or the area around it). Large retrospective studies have shown that the incidence of heart failure averages 1% to 6% and 14% after cumulative doses of 600 and 1,050 mg/m2, respectively. Daunorubicin-induced heart failure can present months to years after termination of therapy. Early effects of anthracyclines include pericarditis-myocarditis (which can rarely affect patients without a history of cardiac disease and which carries a high mortality rate of about 20%), left ventricular dysfunction (which may lead to clinically significant heart failure in patients with limited cardiac reserve), and arrhythmias, the most common of which is sinus tachycardia (usually asymptomatic and transient). Isolated cases of symptomatic supraventricular tachycardia, heart block, and ventricular arrhythmias have been reported.[Ref]

While total doses may need to be decreased in patients with previous or concomitant therapy with any potentially cardiotoxic drugs or related compounds such as doxorubicin, there is no reliable method for predicting which patients will develop heart failure. However, a decrease of at least 30% in the QRS voltage in the limb leads of the ECG, nonspecific ST-T wave changes, or a significant decrease in systolic ejection fraction (MUGA scanning) are signs that have been most commonly associated with cardiotoxicity.

Early clinical detection of heart failure appears to be essential for successful treatment with digitalis, diuretics, sodium restriction, and bed rest.[Ref]


Dermatologic side effects have included reversible alopecia (common), urticaria, chemical thrombophlebitis, and local necrosis (in cases of extravasation). Hyperpigmentation of skin and nails and rare cases of anaphylactic reactions have been reported. One case of generalized hyperpigmentation which involved many sun-protected areas has also been reported.[Ref]


Gastrointestinal side effects including upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting (all usually mild) have been reported to occur in approximately 50% of patients. Diarrhea is rare. Stomatitis or mucositis may occur in up to 40% of patients 3 to 7 days after administration.[Ref]


Intramuscular or subcutaneous administration is NEVER recommended.[Ref]

Local side effects including local tissue inflammation, thrombophlebitis, and necrosis following IV site extravasation have been reported.[Ref]


Hypersensitivity side effects have rarely been reported. They have included fever, chills, rash, fulminant hyperpyrexia, and general anaphylaxis.[Ref]


Hepatic side effects including serum transaminase and bilirubin concentration elevations have been transiently observed.[Ref]


Renal side effects including new or worsened renal insufficiency probably associated with hyperuricemia and/or dehydration have been rarely reported in large clinical trials. Nephrotic syndrome has been associated with the use of daunorubicin in patients with acute myelogenous leukemias.[Ref]


Genitourinary side effects including a red-orange discoloration of the urine have been reported.[Ref]


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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Some side effects may not be reported. You may report them to the FDA.