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Methyl aminolevulinate (topical)

Generic name: methyl aminolevulinate (topical) [ METH-il-a-MEE-noe-LEV-ue-LIN-ate ]
Brand name: Metvixia
Dosage form: topical cream (16.8%)
Drug class: Topical photochemotherapeutics

Medically reviewed by on Sep 1, 2022. Written by Cerner Multum.

What is methyl aminolevulinate?

Methyl aminolevulinate makes your skin more sensitive to light. It works by causing a reaction with light that can destroy certain types of diseased skin cells.

Methyl aminolevulinate topical (for the skin) is used in combination with red light therapy to treat a skin condition called actinic keratosis of the face and scalp.

Methyl aminolevulinate may also be used for other purposes not listed in this medication guide.


You should not use methyl aminolevulinate if you are allergic to porphyrins, peanuts or almonds, or if your skin is especially sensitive to light.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use this medicine if you are allergic to methyl aminolevulinate, or if you have:

  • an allergy to peanuts or almonds;

  • an allergy to porphyrins; or

  • if your skin is especially sensitive to light.

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

FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether methyl aminolevulinate will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medicine.

It is not known whether methyl aminolevulinate passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

How is methyl aminolevulinate used?

Methyl aminolevulinate topical is a cream that is applied to your skin lesions before you receive red light treatment. A healthcare provider will apply methyl aminolevulinate in a clinical setting.

Before this medicine is applied, your skin lesions will be gently scraped to remove any scales or crusting. After methyl aminolevulinate is applied, your caregiver will cover the treatment area with a bandage. You will need to leave this bandage in place for 3 hours.

During this 3-hour period, avoid exposure to cold temperatures and sunlight or bright indoor lights. Wear a wide-brimmed hat if you must be outdoors during this time.

After your bandaging is removed, any excess medication will be removed with a saline solution. You will then be ready to receive the light treatment.

You will be given eye-wear to protect your eyes during red light treatment.

You may feel a slight stinging or burning during light therapy. Tell your caregivers if you have any type of severe discomfort.

Methyl aminolevulinate and red light therapy is usually given in two sessions one week apart. Your treatment schedule may be different. Follow your doctor's instructions.

It may take several weeks before you notice improvement in your skin condition. Your doctor will need to check your treated skin 3 months after the end of your last treatment with methyl aminolevulinate.

Your skin lesions may need to be treated more than once, and they may come back after treatment. Talk to your doctor about the number of treatments needed to treat your condition.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Because methyl aminolevulinate is applied only when needed prior to red light therapy, you will not be on a dosing schedule.

What happens if I overdose?

Since methyl aminolevulinate is given by a healthcare professional in a medical setting, an overdose is unlikely to occur.

What should I avoid while using methyl aminolevulinate?

Tell your caregivers right away if any of this medicine gets into your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Avoid touching the treated skin areas after methyl aminolevulinate cream has been applied to them. Special gloves must be worn by the healthcare provider while applying this medication, and you should not allow your own fingers to come into contact with the cream on your skin.

For at least 48 hours after your treatment, avoid exposing treated skin to sunlight, sunlamps, tanning beds, or other bright lights. Sunscreen is not effective enough to protect treated skin from harm caused by bright light during this time. Wear protective clothing whenever you are outdoors.

Even if you do not receive the light therapy portion of your treatment, you must still protect your skin from light for 48 hours after the cream was applied.

Methyl aminolevulinate side effects

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

Methyl aminolevulinate may cause serious side effects. Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe stinging, burning, redness, oozing, or swelling of treated skin areas (especially if these effects get worse or last longer than 3 weeks).

Common side effects of methyl aminolevulinate may include:

  • skin redness, warmth, burning, stinging, or swelling;

  • blisters, skin ulcers; or

  • peeling or crusting of treated skin.

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.

What other drugs will affect methyl aminolevulinate?

It is not likely that other drugs you take orally or inject will have an effect on topically applied methyl aminolevulinate. But many drugs can interact with each other. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

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.