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Generic Name: bexarotene (beks AIR oh teen)
Brand Name: Targretin

Medically reviewed by on Jul 27, 2020 – Written by Cerner Multum

What is bexarotene?

Bexarotene is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Bexarotene is used to treat skin lesions caused by cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). Bexarotene is usually given after other cancer medications have been tried without successful treatment.

Bexarotene may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

Bexarotene can harm an unborn baby or cause birth defects. Do not use if you are pregnant. You will need to have a negative pregnancy test every month during treatment.

Do not use bexarotene if you are a man and your sexual partner is pregnant.

Use at least 2 reliable forms of birth control while either sexual partner is taking bexarotene, and for at least 30 days after treatment ends.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use bexarotene if you are allergic to it, or if you are pregnant.

To make sure bexarotene is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

Bexarotene can harm an unborn baby or cause birth defects. Do not use bexarotene if you are pregnant, or if you are a man and your sexual partner is pregnant.

  • If you are a woman, you must have a negative pregnancy test 7 days before you start taking bexarotene, and once per month during treatment.

  • Stop taking the medicine and tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant, if you stop using birth control, or if you miss a menstrual period.

  • If you are a man, use a condom to prevent pregnancy during your treatment. Continue using a condom for at least 30 days after you stop taking bexarotene.

  • Use at least 2 reliable forms of birth control while either sexual partner is taking bexarotene, and for at least 30 days after treatment ends.

  • At least one of your forms of birth control should be non-hormonal (condom, cervical cap, IUD, or diaphragm with spermicide).

  • Tell your doctor right away if a pregnancy occurs while either the mother or the father is taking bexarotene.

It is not known whether bexarotene passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while you are using bexarotene.

How should I use bexarotene?

Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take bexarotene in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Take with food.

Swallow each capsule whole. Do not chew them, dissolve them in liquid, or allow them to dissolve in your mouth.

While using bexarotene, you will need frequent blood tests.

It may take up to several months before your symptoms improve. Keep using the medication as directed and tell your doctor if your symptoms do not improve.

Store at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.

Read all patient information, medication guides, and instruction sheets provided to you. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose with food as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while using bexarotene?

Avoid taking a vitamin A supplement without your doctor's advice. Use only the amount your doctor recommends.

Grapefruit and grapefruit juice may interact with bexarotene and lead to unwanted side effects. Discuss the use of grapefruit products with your doctor.

bexarotene can pass into body fluids (urine, feces, vomit). Caregivers should wear rubber gloves while cleaning up a patient's body fluids, handling contaminated trash or laundry or changing diapers. Wash hands before and after removing gloves. Wash soiled clothing and linens separately from other laundry.

Avoid exposure to sunlight or tanning beds. Bexarotene can make you sunburn more easily. Wear protective clothing and use sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) when you are outdoors.

Bexarotene side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Stop using bexarotene and call your doctor at once if you have:

  • blurred vision, eye pain, or seeing halos around lights;

  • low red blood cells (anemia)--pale skin, feeling light-headed or short of breath, rapid heart rate, trouble concentrating;

  • low white blood cell counts--fever, swollen gums, painful mouth sores, pain when swallowing, skin sores, cold or flu symptoms, cough, trouble breathing;

  • pancreatitis--severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, nausea and vomiting; or

  • thyroid symptoms--extreme tired feeling, dry skin, joint pain or stiffness, muscle pain or weakness, hoarse voice, feeling more sensitive to cold temperatures, weight gain.

Common side effects may include:

  • headache, weakness;

  • nausea, stomach pain;

  • rash, dry skin; or

  • swelling in your hands or feet.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Bexarotene dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma:

300 mg/m2/day orally once a day with a meal

Duration of Therapy: This drug should be continued as long as the patient is deriving benefit. In clinical trials with CTCL patients, this drug was administered for up to 118 weeks.

Comments: If there is no tumor response after 8 weeks of treatment and the initial dose was well-tolerated, the dose may be escalated to 400 mg/m2/day with careful monitoring.

Use: Treatment of cutaneous manifestations of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) in patients refractory to at least one prior systemic therapy.

What other drugs will affect bexarotene?

Many drugs can interact with bexarotene. Not all possible interactions are listed here. Tell your doctor about all your medications and any you start or stop using during treatment with bexarotene, especially:

This list is not complete and many other drugs can interact with bexarotene. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Give a list of all your medicines to any healthcare provider who treats you.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

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