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Targretin (Topical)

Generic name: Bexarotene (Topical) (beks AIR oh teen)
Brand name: Targretin
Drug class: Miscellaneous topical agents

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 7, 2020.

Uses of Targretin:

  • It is used to treat a type of lymphoma that affects the skin.

What do I need to tell my doctor BEFORE I take Targretin?

  • If you have an allergy to bexarotene or any other part of Targretin (bexarotene (topical)).
  • If you are allergic to Targretin (bexarotene (topical)); any part of Targretin (bexarotene (topical)); or any other drugs, foods, or substances. Tell your doctor about the allergy and what signs you had.
  • If you are pregnant or may be pregnant. Do not take Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) if you are pregnant.
  • If you are breast-feeding or plan to breast-feed.

This medicine may interact with other drugs or health problems.

Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of your drugs (prescription or OTC, natural products, vitamins) and health problems. You must check to make sure that it is safe for you to take Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) with all of your drugs and health problems. Do not start, stop, or change the dose of any drug without checking with your doctor.

What are some things I need to know or do while I take Targretin?

  • Tell all of your health care providers that you take Targretin (bexarotene (topical)). This includes your doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists.
  • It may take several weeks to see the full effects.
  • Do not use Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) with insect repellents that have N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET).
  • You may get sunburned more easily. Avoid sun, sunlamps, and tanning beds. Use sunscreen and wear clothing and eyewear that protects you from the sun.
  • Talk with your doctor before you use other drugs or products on your skin.
  • Talk with your doctor before you take products that have vitamin A in them.
  • If you drink grapefruit juice or eat grapefruit often, talk with your doctor.
  • Do not scratch the affected area.
  • This medicine may cause harm if swallowed. If Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) is swallowed, call a doctor or poison control center right away.
  • People using Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) may have skin reactions where Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) is used. These reactions may include burning, irritation, itching, redness, or scaling. If these reactions get very bad, a break from using Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) may be needed as told by the doctor. Talk with the doctor.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have a skin reaction that bothers you or if the reaction makes it hard to keep putting Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) on. Call your doctor right away if you have a skin reaction that causes problems with daily living.
  • If you are a man and have sex with a woman who is pregnant, may be pregnant, or can get pregnant, always use a condom during sex. Use a condom during treatment and for at least 1 month after treatment ends.
  • If you are a man and your sex partner gets pregnant while you take Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) or within 1 month after your last dose, call your doctor right away.
  • Use of Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) during pregnancy may cause birth defects or death of the unborn baby. You will need to have a pregnancy test to show that you are NOT pregnant before starting Targretin (bexarotene (topical)). Talk with the doctor.
  • A pregnancy test will be done every month during treatment with Targretin (bexarotene (topical)).
  • Use 2 kinds of birth control 1 month before starting Targretin (bexarotene (topical)), during treatment, and for at least 1 month after the last dose.
  • If you get pregnant while taking Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) or within 1 month after your last dose, call your doctor right away.

How is this medicine (Targretin) best taken?

Use Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) as ordered by your doctor. Read all information given to you. Follow all instructions closely.

  • Do not take Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) by mouth. Use on your skin only.
  • Do not put Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) on or near the eyes, nostrils, mouth, lips, vagina, tip of the penis, rectum, or anus. If you get Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) in any of these areas, rinse with water right away.
  • Wash your hands before and after use. Do not wash your hands after use if putting this on your hand.
  • Put on affected part only.
  • Avoid putting on healthy skin.
  • Let gel dry before covering with clothing.
  • Put the cap back on after you are done using your dose.
  • Wait 20 minutes after bathing before putting on.
  • Do not bathe, shower, or swim for 3 hours after putting on.
  • Do not cover with dressings.
  • Use as you have been told, even if your signs get better.
  • If you are able to get pregnant and have menstrual periods, start taking Targretin (bexarotene (topical)) on the second or third day of a normal menstrual period.
  • This medicine may catch on fire. Do not use near an open flame or while smoking.

What do I do if I miss a dose?

  • Put on a missed dose as soon as you think about it.
  • If it is close to the time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your normal time.
  • Do not put on 2 doses at the same time or extra doses.

What are some side effects that I need to call my doctor about right away?

WARNING/CAUTION: Even though it may be rare, some people may have very bad and sometimes deadly side effects when taking a drug. Tell your doctor or get medical help right away if you have any of the following signs or symptoms that may be related to a very bad side effect:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction, like rash; hives; itching; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest or throat; trouble breathing, swallowing, or talking; unusual hoarseness; or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Signs of infection like fever, chills, very bad sore throat, ear or sinus pain, cough, more sputum or change in color of sputum, pain with passing urine, mouth sores, or wound that will not heal.
  • A burning, numbness, or tingling feeling that is not normal.
  • Swelling.
  • Swollen gland.

What are some other side effects of Targretin?

All drugs may cause side effects. However, many people have no side effects or only have minor side effects. Call your doctor or get medical help if any of these side effects or any other side effects bother you or do not go away:

  • Headache.
  • Sweating a lot.
  • Feeling tired or weak.

These are not all of the side effects that may occur. If you have questions about side effects, call your doctor. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-332-1088. You may also report side effects at

If OVERDOSE is suspected:

If you think there has been an overdose, call your poison control center or get medical care right away. Be ready to tell or show what was taken, how much, and when it happened.

How do I store and/or throw out Targretin?

  • Store at room temperature.
  • Protect from heat or open flame.
  • Protect from light.
  • Keep all drugs in a safe place. Keep all drugs out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Throw away unused or expired drugs. Do not flush down a toilet or pour down a drain unless you are told to do so. Check with your pharmacist if you have questions about the best way to throw out drugs. There may be drug take-back programs in your area.

Consumer information use

  • If your symptoms or health problems do not get better or if they become worse, call your doctor.
  • Do not share your drugs with others and do not take anyone else's drugs.
  • Some drugs may have another patient information leaflet. Check with your pharmacist. If you have any questions about Targretin (bexarotene (topical)), please talk with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
  • If you think there has been an overdose, call your poison control center or get medical care right away. Be ready to tell or show what was taken, how much, and when it happened.

Further information

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