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Bexarotene Side Effects

For the Consumer

Applies to bexarotene: oral capsule

Along with its needed effects, bexarotene may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Since this medication is given in varying doses, the actual frequency of side effects may vary. In general, side effects are less common with lower doses than with higher doses.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur while taking bexarotene:

More common
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • skin rash or other skin and mucous membrane lesions
  • fever
  • increase in lipid or cholesterol levels
  • coldness, dry, puffy skin or weight gain
  • chills, cough, hoarseness, lower back or side pain or painful or difficult urination
  • swelling of the arms, feet, hands, or legs
Less Common
  • Severe stomach pain with nausea or vomiting
  • shortness of breath
  • yellow eyes or skin

Some side effects of bexarotene may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to bexarotene: oral capsule


Very common (10% or more): Decreased HDL cholesterol (up to 90%), hyperlipemia (up to 79%), elevated cholesterol (up to 75%), elevated triglycerides (up to 70%), hypercholesterolemia (up to 62%), hypocholesterolemia (up to 28%), anorexia (up to 23%), increased lactic dehydrogenase (up to 13%)
Common (1% to 10%): Weight gain, hypoproteinemia
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Gout
Frequency not reported: Elevated LDL cholesterol, decreased weight, dehydration, increased alkaline phosphatase, hypercalcemia, hypocalcemia, hypernatremia, hyponatremia, hyperkalemia, hypokalemia, hypolipemia, hypomagnesemia, increased appetite, thirst, hypovolemia[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Decreased TSH (up to 60%), hypothyroidism (up to 53%), decreased total T4 (up to 45%)
Common (1% to 10%): Thyroid disorder, altered hormone level
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Hyperthyroidism
Frequency not reported: Hyperglycemia, decreased libido, increased and decreased gonadotropic luteinizing hormone[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Leukopenia (up to 47%), anemia (up to 25%), hypochromic anemia (up to 13%)
Common (1% to 10%): Lymphoma-like reaction, lymphadenopathy
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Blood dyscrasia, coagulation disorder, increased coagulation time, thrombocytopenia, thrombocythemia, eosinophilia, leukocytosis, lymphocytosis, abnormal erythrocytes
Frequency not reported: Neutropenia, decreased thromboplastin, bone marrow suppression, decreased absolute neutrophil count, decreased absolute lymphocyte count, decrease white blood cell count, decreased hemoglobin[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Asthenia (up to 45%), infection (up to 23%), fever (up to 17%), bacterial infection (up to 13%), chills (up to 13%), flu syndrome (up to 13%), peripheral edema (up to 13%), pain (up to 12%)
Common (1% to 10%): Deafness
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Ear disorder, parasitic infection, edema, mucous membrane disorder, abnormal lab test
Frequency not reported: Chest pain, breast pain, breast enlargement, sepsis, ear pain, otitis externa, tinnitus, malaise, viral infection[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Diarrhea (up to 42%), nausea (up to 16%), vomiting (up to 13%), abdominal pain (up to 11%)
Common (1% to 10%): Cheilitis, constipation, dry mouth, flatulence
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Pancreatitis, gastrointestinal disorder
Frequency not reported: Colitis, melena, dyspepsia, gastroenteritis, gingivitis, increased amylase, increased lipase, stomatitis, abnormal stools, tenesmus, pelvic pain, eructation, enlarged abdomen, dysphagia, mouth ulceration, oral moniliasis, gingivitis[Ref]

Nervous system

Very common (10% or more): Headache (up to 42%)
Common (1% to 10%): Dizziness, hypesthesia
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Ataxia, neuropathy, vertigo, hyperesthesia
Frequency not reported: Syncope, cerebrovascular accident, subdural hematoma, migraine, peripheral neuritis, paresthesia, somnolence, stupor, circumoral paresthesia, taste perversion[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Exfoliative dermatitis (up to 28%), rash (up to 23%), pruritus (up to 20%), dry skin (up to 17%), alopecia (up to 11%)
Common (1% to 10%): Skin ulcer, skin hypertrophy, skin nodule, acne, sweating, skin disorder
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Purpura, serous drainage, herpes simplex, pustular rash, cellulitis, skin discoloration, hair disorder, nail disorder
Frequency not reported: Maculopapular rash, vesicular bullous rash, ecchymosis, petechia, pallor, psoriasis, furunculosis, contact dermatitis, herpes zoster, seborrhea, lichenoid dermatitis, photosensitivity reaction, face edema, body odor[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Cataracts/lens opacities (up to 19%)
Common (1% to 10%): Dry eyes, eye disorder
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Amblyopia, visual field defect, corneal lesion, abnormal vision, blepharitis, conjunctivitis
Frequency not reported: Keratitis, night blindness, nystagmus, lacrimation disorder, eye pain[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Back pain (up to 11%)
Common (1% to 10%): Arthralgia, myalgia, bone pain
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Myasthenia
Frequency not reported: Arthrosis, increased creatinine phosphokinase, hypertonia, leg cramps, abnormal gait, arthritis, joint disorder[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Insomnia (up to 11%)
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Depression, agitation
Frequency not reported: Anxiety, emotional lability, abnormal thinking, confusion, nervousness[Ref]


Due to its primarily retinoid X receptor (RXR)-binding activity, this drug is less likely to cause adverse effects (arthralgia; myalgia; and mucocutaneous, nail, and hair toxicities) frequently reported with retinoic acid receptor (RAR)-binding agents.[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Increased SGPT/ALT, increased SGOT/AST, increased bilirubin
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Bilirubinemia, liver failure
Frequency not reported: Cholestasis, cholecystitis, liver damage, jaundice[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Allergic reaction[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Increased creatinine
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Increased BUN, abnormal kidney function[Ref]


Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Tachycardia, hemorrhage, hypertension, vasodilation, varicose vein
Frequency not reported: Angina pectoris, right heart failure, arrhythmia, peripheral vascular disorder, decreased prothrombin, congestive heart failure, palpitation, vascular anomaly, vascular disorder[Ref]


Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Albuminuria
Frequency not reported: Hematuria, urinary incontinence, urinary tract infection, urinary urgency, dysuria, monilia infection, hyperuricemia, urinary retention, impaired urination, polyuria, nocturia, urine abnormality[Ref]


Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Neoplasm
Frequency not reported: Carcinoma[Ref]


Frequency not reported: Pharyngitis, rhinitis, dyspnea, pleural effusion, bronchitis, increased cough, lung edema, hemoptysis, hypoxia, pneumonia, sinusitis, epistaxis, respiratory disorder, lung disorder, pleural disorder, laryngismus[Ref]


1. "Product Information. Targretin (bexarotene)" Ligand Pharmaceuticals, San Diego, CA.

Some side effects of bexarotene may not be reported. Always consult your doctor or healthcare specialist for medical advice. You may also report side effects to the FDA.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, up-to-date and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. In addition, the drug information contained herein may be time sensitive and should not be utilized as a reference resource beyond the date hereof. This material does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients, or recommend therapy. This information is a reference resource designed as supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill , knowledge, and judgement of healthcare practitioners in patient care. The absence of a warning for a given drug or combination thereof in no way should be construed to indicate safety, effectiveness, or appropriateness for any given patient. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of materials provided. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the substances you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.