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Generic Name: porfimer (POR fi mer)
Brand Name: Photofrin
Physician reviewed Photofrin patient information - includes Photofrin description, dosage and directions.
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Drug Information:
Photofrin makes your body's tissues more sensitive to the effects of light. Photofrin is used together with "photodynamic" laser light therapy to reduce the size of tumors in the lungs or esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth and stomach). Photofrin may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide. You should not receive this medication if you have porphyria, esophageal bleeding, a fistula (abnormal passageway) in the throat or esophagus, or a tumor that affects a large blood vessel. Learn more

Photofrin Side Effects

Photofrin Side Effects

Note: This document contains side effect information about porfimer. Some of the dosage forms listed on this page may not apply to the brand name Photofrin.

For the Consumer

Applies to porfimer: intravenous powder for solution

Along with its needed effects, porfimer (the active ingredient contained in Photofrin) may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur while taking porfimer:

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

Some side effects of porfimer 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

  • 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


Very common (10% or more): Photosensitivity reaction (37%)

Postmarketing reports: Angioedema, blister, dry skin, erythema, face edema, photodermatosis, pigmentation disorder, pruritus, pseudoporphyria, rash, skin burning sensation, sunburn, urticaria


Very common (10% or more): Nausea (37%), esophageal stricture (36%), vomiting (31%), esophageal narrowing (30%), constipation (24%), dysphagia (24%)

abdominal pain (20%)

Common (1% to 10%): Esophageal bleeding, esophageal edema, hematemesis, dyspepsia, esophageal stenosis, diarrhea, esophagitis, eructation, melena, esophageal pain, hiccups, odynophagia

Frequency not reported: Esophageal perforation, gastric ulcer, ileus, peritonitis, regurgitation, heartburn

Postmarketing reports: Gastrointestinal necrosis, dry lips, mouth edema, esophageal fistula, esophageal ulcer, oral pain, esophageal injury


Very common (10% or more): Anemia (32%)

Postmarketing reports: Leukocytosis, prolonged activated partial thromboplastin time, increased C-reactive protein, erythropenia, decreased hemoglobin, prolonged prothrombin time, increased blood urea


Very common (10% or more): Pleural effusion (32%), dyspnea (30%), exudate (22%), bronchial mucus plug or bronchial obstruction (21%), pneumonia (18%), cough (15%), hemoptysis (16%), pharyngitis (11%), bronchiostenosis (11%), bronchitis (10%), respiratory insufficiency (10%), respiratory distress

Common (1% to 10%): Tracheoesophageal fistula, bronchial ulceration

Frequency not reported: Bronchospasm, laryngotracheal edema, pneumonitis, pulmonary hemorrhage, pulmonary edema, respiratory failure, stridor, mediastinal inflammation, pulmonary thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, lung abscess, increased sputum

Postmarketing reports: Bronchial injury, bronchial fistula, bronchial hemorrhage, hiccups


Very common (10% or more): Pyrexia (31%), chest pain (31%), pain (22%), generalized edema (18%), chest discomfort (10%)

Common (1% to 10%): Peripheral edema, asthenia/fatigue/malaise, substernal chest pain, candidiasis, post-procedural complication, post-procedural pain, sepsis

Postmarketing reports: Chills, swelling, decreased total protein


Very common (10% or more): Insomnia (14%)

Common (1% to 10%): Confusional state, anxiety


Very common (10% or more): Back pain (11%)


Very common (10% or more): Atrial fibrillation (10%)

Common (1% to 10%): Cardiac failure, tachycardia, hypotension, hypertension

Frequency not reported: Angina pectoris, bradycardia, myocardial infarction, sick sinus syndrome, supraventricular tachycardia

Postmarketing reports: First degree atrioventricular block, deep vein thrombosis, embolism, phlebitis


Very common (10% or more): Dehydration (10%)

Common (1% to 10%): Decreased weight, anorexia

Frequency not reported: Fluid imbalance

Postmarketing reports: Fluid overload, hypocalcemia


Common (1% to 10%): Urinary tract infection

Postmarketing reports: Bladder spasm, dysuria, hydronephrosis, micturition urgency, nocturia, urinary retention

Nervous system

Common (1% to 10%): Dysphonia

Frequency not reported: Cerebrovascular accident

Postmarketing reports: Dizziness, hypoesthesia, vasovagal syncope


Common (1% to 10%): Tumor hemorrhage


Frequency not reported: Jaundice

Postmarketing reports: Pancreatitis, portal vein thrombosis


Frequency not reported: Cataracts, ocular sensitivity, abnormal vision, diplopia, eye pain, photophobia

Postmarketing reports: Asthenopia, ocular hyperemia, abnormal visual acuity test


Postmarketing reports: Hypersensitivity


Postmarketing reports: Infusion reactions, application site edema

Editorial References and Review

Medically reviewed by BestRx Medical Team Last updated on 1/1/2020.

Source: Drugs.com Photofrin