Bexarotene (By mouth)


Bexarotene (bex-ER-oh-teen)

Treats skin problems caused by a type of cancer called T-cell lymphoma. This medicine is a retinoid.

Brand Name(s)


There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used

You should not use this medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to bexarotene, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

How to Use This Medicine


  • Medicines used to treat cancer are very strong and can have many side effects. Before receiving this medicine, make sure you understand all the risks and benefits. It is important for you to work closely with your doctor during your treatment.
  • Your doctor will tell you how much of this medicine to use and how often. Do not use more medicine or use it more often than your doctor tells you to.
  • This medicine should not be the first medicine you use to treat your condition. It is meant to be used only after you have tried other medicines that have not worked or have caused unwanted side effects.
  • It is best to take this medicine with food or milk.
  • Swallow each capsule whole. Do not chew or dissolve the capsule in liquid or in your mouth.
  • Do not touch the capsules if they are broken or leaking. If the medicine gets into your skin, wash it with soap and water right away and call your doctor.
  • This medicine comes with patient instructions. Read and follow these instructions carefully. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

If a dose is missed:

  • If you miss a dose or forget to use your medicine, use it as soon as you can. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then to use the medicine and skip the missed dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.

How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine

  • Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light.
  • Ask your pharmacist, doctor, or health caregiver about the best way to dispose of any leftover medicine after you have finished your treatment. You will also need to throw away old medicine after the expiration date has passed.
  • Keep all medicine away from children and never share your medicine with anyone.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are also using atorvastatin (Lipitor®), carboplatin (Paraplatin), erythromycin (Ery-Tab®), gemfibrozil (Lopid®), itraconazole (Sporanox®), ketoconazole (Nizoral®), paclitaxel (Taxol®), phenobarbital (Luminal®), phenytoin (Dilantin®), rifampin (Rifadin®, Rifamate®, Rifater®), or tamoxifen (Nolvadex®). Tell your doctor if you are also using insulin, diabetes medicine that you take by mouth (such as glipizide, glyburide, pioglitazone, rosiglitazone, tolbutamide, Actos®, Amaryl®, Avandia®, DiaBeta®, Glucotrol®, Glynase®, Micronase®, or Orinase®), or vitamin A supplements.
  • Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while you are using this medicine.

Warnings While Using This Medicine

  • This medicine can cause birth defects if it is used by the mother while she is pregnant or by the father when his sexual partner becomes pregnant. If a pregnancy occurs while you are using this medicine, tell your doctor right away. Birth control pills may not work properly while you are taking this medicine. Use two forms of birth control together to avoid pregnancy for 1 month before your treatment and until 1 month after you stop taking this medicine. Other forms of birth control are condoms, diaphragms, or contraceptive foams or jellies.
  • You must have a negative pregnancy test before you will be allowed to take this medicine. You will also be required to have a pregnancy test 1 week before treatment and every month during your treatment. If you miss a period while you are using this medicine, tell your doctor right away.
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you have kidney disease, liver disease, cancer of the ovary, cataracts, diabetes, high cholesterol or fats in the blood, thyroid problems, or a history of gallbladder disease or pancreatitis. Tell your doctor if you have had an allergic reaction to acitretin (Soriatane®), etretinate (Tegison®), isotretinoin (Accutane®), tretinoin (Retin-A®, Vesanoid®), or similar medicines. Tell your doctor if you drink large amounts of alcohol.
  • This medicine may increase the level of cholesterol and fats in your blood. If this condition occurs, your doctor may give you a medicine to lower the cholesterol and fats. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
  • Pancreatitis may occur while you are using this medicine. Tell your doctor right away if you have sudden and severe stomach pain, chills, constipation, nausea, vomiting, fever, or lightheadedness.
  • This medicine lowers the number of some types of blood cells in your body. Because of this, you may bleed or get infections more easily. To help with these problems, avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Wash your hands often. Stay away from rough sports or other situations where you could be bruised, cut, or injured. Brush and floss your teeth gently. Be careful when using sharp objects, including razors and fingernail clippers.
  • Check with your doctor immediately if blurred vision, difficulty in reading, or any other change in vision occurs during or after treatment. Your doctor may want you to have your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor).
  • Make sure any doctor or dentist who treats you knows that you are using this medicine. This medicine may affect the results of certain medical tests.
  • This medicine may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Use a sunscreen when you are outdoors. Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds.
  • Your doctor will need to check your progress at regular visits while you are using this medicine. Be sure to keep all appointments. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Blurred vision or changes in vision.
  • Dark-colored urine or pale stools.
  • Feeling always tired, low on energy, or unusually cold all the time.
  • Fever, chills, cough, sore throat, and body aches.
  • Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or upper stomach pain.
  • Rapid weight gain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Sudden and severe stomach pain, and lightheadedness.
  • Swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet.
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising.
  • Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Back pain.
  • Cold or flu-like symptoms.
  • Dry skin, itching, or mild skin rash.
  • Headache.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Mild stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Sunburn or sensitive skin to sunlight.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Weakness or tiredness.

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Version Info

  • Last Reviewed on 06/12/2013

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This page was last updated: September 18, 2013

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