Skip to Content

Porfimer Side Effects

For the Consumer

Applies to porfimer: intravenous powder for solution

As well as its needed effects, porfimer may cause unwanted side effects that require medical attention.

If any of the following side effects occur while taking porfimer, check with your doctor or nurse immediately:

More common:
  • Bladder pain
  • bloody or cloudy urine
  • blurred vision
  • body aches or pain
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • confusion
  • congestion
  • cough
  • coughing or spitting up blood
  • difficult or troubled breathing
  • difficult, burning, or painful urination
  • difficulty with swallowing
  • dilated neck veins
  • dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
  • dryness or soreness of the throat
  • extreme fatigue
  • fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
  • fever or chills
  • frequent urge to urinate
  • headache
  • hoarseness
  • increased sensitivity of the skin to sunlight
  • irregular, fast or slow, or shallow breathing
  • itching
  • lower back or side pain
  • nervousness
  • pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin
  • pale skin
  • pounding in the ears
  • redness or other discoloration of the skin
  • runny nose
  • severe pain in the chest
  • severe sunburn
  • skin rash
  • slow or fast heartbeat
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • sudden onset of severe breathing difficulty
  • sweating
  • swelling of the face, fingers, feet, or lower legs
  • tender, swollen glands in the neck
  • tightness in the chest
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • voice changes
  • vomiting of blood or material that looks like coffee grounds
  • weight gain
  • white patches in the mouth or throat or on the tongue
  • white patches with diaper rash
Less common:
  • Bloody, black, or tarry stools
  • decrease in the amount of urine
  • decreased urination
  • dry mouth
  • fainting
  • heartburn
  • increase in heart rate
  • noisy, rattling breathing
  • pain or burning in the throat
  • rapid breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • sores, ulcers, or white spots on the lips or tongue or inside the mouth
  • sunken eyes
  • thirst
  • troubled breathing at rest
  • vomiting
  • wrinkled skin

Severity: Minor

Some porfimer side effects may not need any medical attention. As your body gets used to the medicine these side effects may disappear. Your health care professional may be able to help you prevent or reduce these side effects, but do check with them if any of the following side effects continue, or if you are concerned about them:

More common:
  • Acid or sour stomach
  • back pain
  • belching
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • fear or nervousness
  • indigestion
  • lack or loss of strength
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • pain
  • sleeplessness
  • stomach discomfort, upset, or pain
  • trouble sleeping
  • unable to sleep
  • weight loss
Less common:
  • Bloated or full feeling
  • change in the color of treated skin
  • excess air or gas in the stomach
  • increased hair growth
  • small lumps under the skin

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to porfimer: intravenous powder for injection


General side effects have included fever (31%), pain (up to 22%), chest pain (up to 22%), back pain (up to 11%), weight decrease (9%), peripheral edema (up to 7%), dehydration (7%), asthenia (6%), generalized edema (5%), and surgical complication (5%). Patients with at least one adverse event have been as high as 95%.[Ref]


Respiratory side effects including pleural effusion (32%), dyspnea (up to 30%), pneumonia (up to 18%), hemoptysis (16%), coughing (up to 15%), pharyngitis (11%), bronchitis (10%), respiratory insufficiency (up to 10%), increased sputum (8%), and tracheoesophageal fistula (6%) have been reported.[Ref]


Cardiovascular side effects have included edema (18%), atrial fibrillation (10%), cardiac failure (7%), hypotension (7%), tachycardia (6%), and hypertension (6%).[Ref]

Nervous system

Nervous system side effects have included dysphonia (5%).[Ref]


Gastrointestinal side effects have included constipation (up to 24%), nausea (24%), abdominal pain (20%), vomiting (17%), dysphagia (10%), esophageal edema (8%), esophageal tumor bleeding (8%), hematemesis (8%), dyspepsia (6%), esophageal stricture (6%), diarrhea (5%), eructation (5%), esophagitis (5%), and melena (5%).[Ref]


Psychiatric side effects have included insomnia (up to 14%), anorexia (8%), confusion (8%), and anxiety (up to 7%).[Ref]


Hematologic side effects have included anemia (32%).[Ref]


Immunologic side effects have included moniliasis (9%).[Ref]


Dermatologic side effects have included photosensitivity reaction (up to 22%).[Ref]


Genitourinary side effects have included urinary tract infection (7%).[Ref]


Local side effects have included exudate (22%), obstruction (19%), stricture (11%), and ulceration (9%).[Ref]


Both of the parents of the patient with cataracts in both eyes had a history of cataracts in their seventies. Whether porfimer directly caused or accelerated a familial underlying condition is unknown.[Ref]

Ocular side effects have included ocular discomfort (commonly described as sensitivity to sun, bright lights, or car headlights).

A case of cataracts has been reported in a fifty-one year old obese man treated with porfimer. The patient suffered from a photodynamic therapy (PDT) response. Within two months post PDT, the patient noted difficulty with his distant vision. A thorough eye examination revealed a change in the refractive error that later progressed to cataracts in both eyes.[Ref]


Fluid imbalance is an expected PDT treatment-related event.[Ref]

Other side effects including a few cases of fluid imbalance have been reported following the use of photodynamic therapy (PDT) with porfimer in patients with overtly disseminated intraperitoneal malignancies.[Ref]


1. "Product Information. Photofrin (porfimer)." Sanofi Winthrop Pharmaceuticals, New York, NY.

It is possible that some side effects of porfimer may not have been reported. These can be reported to the FDA here. Always consult a healthcare professional for medical advice.

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.