Capecitabine (Xeloda), an oral chemotherapy medication manufactured by Genentech, has been linked to causing the development of rare and possibly fatal skin reactions known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). Additionally, the skin reaction was recently linked to acetaminophen use , which prompted a warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Xeloda (capecitabine) is used to treat cancers of the colon and breast. According to Medscape, a unit of the WebMD Health Professional Network, a warning was recently written concerning Xeloda’s link to the development of SJS, stating that “very rare cases of severe cutaneous reactions such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), in some cases with fatal outcome, have been reported during treatment with [capecitabine].”

If not treated, SJS can cause the death of cells in the skin and mucous membranes, which can ultimately lead to death. SJS causes severe and painful blistering of the skin, which later results in peeling of the skin, scarring, and even blindness. TEN, a severe form of SJS, is diagnosed when the reaction takes place on more than 30 percent of the body.  

“Pharmaceutical companies know the dangers associated with their drugs, yet some fail to warn of the associated risks and instead wait until consumers start developing serious side effects before they voice these risks publicly,” commented Megan McBride, a lawyer with the Levin, Papantonio law firm representing individuals who experienced acetaminophen overdose after ingesting over-the-counter Tylenol.

And unfortunately, many pharmaceutical companies are following this trend. Mutual Pharmaceutical Company, manufacturer of the rheumatoid arthritis drug Clinoril (sulindac), clearly didn’t warn of the SJS risks associated with their product as a woman using the anti-inflammatory drug developed a severe case of SJS and nearly died from the skin reaction.

Consequently, the woman, Karen Bartlett, later sued Mutual Pharmaceutical and a jury later awarded her more than $20 million. However, Mutual Pharmaceutical later appealed the verdict citing PLIVA., Inc. vs.Mensing, which states that generic companies aren’t liable for any associated risks as they are required to use the same label as the name-brand version of their drug..

Bartlett’s case is a prime example of just how much big-wig pharmaceutical companies allow corporate greed to sacrifice consumer safety and health.

Patients taking any medication, especially Xeloda (capecitabine), Clinoril (sulindac), or any drug containing acetaminophen, that develop skin irritation, blisters, or rash are urged to discontinue use immediately and seek medical help.

Krysta is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow her on Twitter @KrystaLoera.