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Generic Name: bexarotene (beks AIR oh teen)
Brand Name: Targretin
Physician reviewed Targretin patient information - includes Targretin description, dosage and directions.
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Drug Information:
Targretin is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. Targretin is used to treat skin lesions caused by cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). This medicine is usually given after other cancer medications have been tried without successful treatment. Targretin may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide. Targretin can harm an unborn baby or cause birth defects. Do not use if you are pregnant. You will need to have a negative pregnancy test every month during treatment. Learn more

Targretin Side Effects

Targretin Side Effects

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

For the Consumer

Applies to bexarotene: oral capsule, oral capsule liquid filled


Oral route (Capsule)

Bexarotene capsules are a member of the retinoid class of drugs that is associated with birth defects in humans. Bexarotene capsules also caused birth defects when administered orally to pregnant rats. Bexarotene capsules must not be administered to a pregnant woman.

Along with its needed effects, bexarotene (the active ingredient contained in Targretin) 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

  • Abdominal pain
  • hair loss
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of strength or energy, tiredness or weakness
  • back pain
  • diarrhea
  • dry skin
  • general feeling of discomfort or illness
  • trouble in sleeping
  • headache
  • nausea or vomiting

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


Common (1% to 10%): Allergic reaction


Common (1% to 10%): Increased creatinine

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Increased BUN, abnormal kidney function


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


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


Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Neoplasm

Frequency not reported: Carcinoma


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

Editorial References and Review

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

Source: Drugs.com Targretin