Bicalutamide is a second generation, oral nonsteroidal antiandrogen similar in structure to flutamide that has been used widely in the therapy of prostate cancer. Bicalutamide is associated with a low rate of serum enzyme elevations during therapy and has been linked to rare instances of liver injury.


Bicalutamide (bye" ka loo' ta mide) is an orally available nonsteroidal antiandrogen that is similar in structure to flutamide and nilutamide used in the treatment of prostate cancer. Bicalutamide acts by binding to intracellular androgen receptors and competitively inhibiting the action of endogenous androgens on sensitive tissue, including testes, prostate, breast, skin and hypothalamus. Bicalutamide was approved for use in the United States in 1995. Current indications are for the therapy of metastatic prostate cancer in combination with luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) analogs such as leuprolide or goserelin. Bicalutamide is available in tablets of 50 mg generically and under the trade name of Casodex. The recommended dose is 50 mg once daily. Common side effects of bicalutamide include fatigue, drowsiness, anxiety, gynecomastia and loss of libido. Rare but potentially severe adverse events include acute liver injury, Stevens Johnson syndrome, and severe hemorrhage when used with warfarin for anticoagulation.


Bicalutamide therapy is associated with mild, asymptomatic and transient elevations in serum aminotransferase levels in approximately 6% of patients. The frequency and height of the ALT elevations appears to be less with bicalutamide than flutamide. Similarly, there have been rare case reports of clinically apparent liver injury due to bicalutamide, but less frequently than with flutamide. In the Spanish pharmacovigilance study, there were 11 reports of hepatotoxicity from bicalutamide, none of which were fatal. On the other hand, the product label for bicalutamide mentions that a few cases of fatal hepatic failure have been reported. The clinical pattern of liver injury with bicalutamide appears to resemble that of flutamide. The latency to onset is usually 2 to 3 months, but can be shorter with reexposure and occasionally arises 4 to 6 months after starting. The typical pattern of serum enzyme elevations is hepatocellular and severe, fulminant cases have been described. Rash, fever and eosinophilia are not common and autoantibody formation is not described.

Likelihood score: B (likely cause of clinically apparent liver injury).

Mechanism of Injury

The mechanism of bicalutamide hepatotoxicity is unknown. It is metabolized by the liver via the cytochrome P450 system, largely via CYP 3A4 which it can inhibit and thus cause drug-drug interactions. Thus, liver injury from bicalutamide may be caused by toxic or immunogenic metabolites of the agent. The lower frequency of hepatotoxicity from bicalutamide compared to flutamide may be due to its lower dose or its lower rate of hepatic metabolism.

Outcome and Management

The mild ALT elevations during bicalutamide therapy are usually self-limiting even with continuation of the medication. The rare instances of clinically apparent liver injury have ranged in severity from mild self-limiting cases to fatal acute liver failure. Monitoring of liver tests during therapy is recommended. There is no information on cross sensitivity to hepatic injury among the various antiandrogens. Rechallenge should be avoided and switching therapy to flutamide or nilutamide cannot be recommended.

Drug Class: Antineoplastic Agents, Antiandrogens


Case 1. Acute liver failure arising after two doses of bicalutamide.(1)

A 60 year old man with prostate cancer developed acute liver failure following two doses of bicalutamide and a few days after stopping a 3 month course of flutamide. Liver test results were reported to be normal at the time of diagnosis of prostate cancer. Following an initial month of therapy with cyproterone acetate, flutamide and monthly subcutaneous goserelin acetate was started. Although flutamide was well tolerated, it was discontinued after 3 months and bicalutamide was substituted. After the second dose of bicalutamide, the patient developed jaundice and confusion. All medications were stopped and he was admitted for evaluation and therapy. He had no previous history of liver disease, no risk factors for viral hepatitis and no recent use of alcohol or acetaminophen. Serum bilirubin was 19.5 mg/dL, and serum ALT was markedly elevated with minimal increase in alkaline phosphatase levels (Table). The INR was 2.2. Tests for hepatitis A, B, C and for EBV infection were negative as were autoantibodies. An abdominal ultrasound revealed no evidence of biliary disease or liver metastasis. The patient developed mental obtundation and required intensive care support, vitamin K, and lactulose. After an initial period of worsening, he improved slowly. Eight weeks later, serum enzymes and bilirubin levels were normal.

Key Points

Laboratory Values


Although widely cited as an example of bicalutamide hepatotoxicity, this case can only be said to be “possibly” related to bicalutamide and is much more likely due to flutamide hepatotoxicity with the typical abrupt hepatocellular pattern of injury arising after 3 months of therapy. Indeed, even with the most severe hepatic injury (in the absence of hemolysis), it would take more than 2 days for serum bilirubin to rise from normal to 19 mg/dL. Cyproterone has also be linked to similar cases of hepatocellular injury, but the appearance of jaundice several months after stopping this agent, makes it unlikely as the cause.



Bicalutamide – Generic, Casodex®


Antineoplastic Agents


Product labeling at DailyMed, National Library of Medicine, NIH



Dawson LA, Chow E, Morton G. Fulminant hepatic failure associated with bicalutamide. Urology. 1997;49:283–4. [PubMed: 9037299]


References updated: 15 March 2023

Abbreviations: LHRH, luteinizing hormone releasing hormone; PSA, prostate specific-antigen.

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