Bexarotene capsules (Targretin)

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Take bexarotene once daily with a meal.

Please keep your regular clinic appointments so that your doctor can check on your progress. If you think you are getting an infection or if you have a high temperature, please contact your doctor for advice straightaway.

Type of medicineA retinoid anti-cancer medicine
Used forCutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL)
Also calledTargretin®
Available asCapsules

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a condition where white blood cells, known as T cells, become cancerous and grow in an uncontrolled way. It generally affects the skin, causing patches of itchy, scaly or raised areas of skin.

Bexarotene works by slowing the growth of the cancer cells. It is prescribed if other treatments have been tried but have not been found to be sufficiently effective.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking bexarotene it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have an infection or feel particularly unwell.
  • If you have any problems with the way your liver works.
  • If you have a lipid disorder (such as high cholesterol or triglycerides).
  • If you have an underactive thyroid.
  • If you have ever had inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
  • If you have been told by a doctor that the level of vitamin A in your body is too high.
  • If you have a rare inherited blood disorder called porphyria.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before you start the treatment, read any printed information you have been given by your doctor and the printed manufacturer's leaflet from inside the pack of capsules. These will give you more information about bexarotene and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Bexarotene will be prescribed for you by a specialist doctor who is experienced in treating your condition. Your dose will be calculated from your weight and height, so it is important that you take the capsules exactly as your doctor tells you to. You will be asked to take one dose each day. You will be told how many capsules to take for each dose - typical doses range from 4 to 10 capsules. Your daily dose will be printed on the label of the pack of capsules to remind you about what the doctor said to you.
  • Try to take bexarotene capsules at the same time of day each day, as this will help you to remember to take your doses regularly. Swallow the capsules with a drink of water at a mealtime. Do not chew or open the capsules.
  • If you forget to take a dose, you can take it with your next meal, providing it is on the same day. Do not take two doses on the following day to make up for a missed dose.
  • You must try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor or hospital. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. You will need to have regular blood tests and check-ups during your treatment with bexarotene.
  • It is important that you do not get pregnant or father a child while you are taking bexarotene, and for at least a month afterwards. Make sure you have discussed with your doctor which types of contraception are suitable for you and your partner. Many anti-cancer treatments are associated with reduced fertility (particularly in men), so you may also want to ask your doctor for family planning advice if you would like to have children in the future.
  • While you are taking bexarotene do not have any immunisations (vaccinations) without talking to your specialist doctor first. Bexarotene can lower your body's resistance and there is a risk that you will get an infection from some vaccines.
  • Continue to take the capsules unless you are told otherwise. You may require treatment with bexarotene for several months.
  • If you have difficulty with your eyesight while you are taking bexarotene, please let your doctor know. This is so arrangements can be made for you to have an eye examination.
  • It is theoretically possible that drinking large amounts of grapefruit juice could increase the levels of bexarotene in your body. This is because a chemical in grapefruit juice increases the amount of bexarotene in your bloodstream. This could make side-effects more likely.
  • Retinoid medicines like bexarotene can cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than normal. Until you know how your skin reacts, use a sun cream with a high sun protection factor (SPF) in bright sunlight. Do not use sunbeds.
  • If you buy any medicines (particularly vitamin supplements), check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with bexarotene. This is because bexarotene is related to vitamin A and you should limit the amount of vitamin supplements you take.

Medicines used to treat cancer can have a number of side-effects, some of which can be delayed for several days or weeks after taking the medicine. Most chemotherapy medicines can lower the number of white cells in your blood, which increases the risk of you getting an infection. While you are taking bexarotene you should take precautions to reduce the risk of getting an infection - you can do this by avoiding being with people who you know have an infection. If you think you are getting a sore throat or if you have a high temperature, please let your doctor know as soon as possible so that you can get some treatment straightaway.

Your doctor will discuss with you the possibility of unwanted side-effects from your treatment. The table below contains some of the most common side-effects associated with bexarotene, although not everyone experiences these. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your capsules. Please let your doctor know if you experience any of the following:

Very common bexarotene side-effects (these affect more than 1 in 10 people)
What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling tired or weakDo not drive or use tools or machines while affected
Headache, aches and painsAsk your doctor or pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller
Itchy skin rash, redness, peelingLet your doctor know about this
Thyroid disorders and lipid disordersYour doctor will arrange for you to have regular blood tests to check for these

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with your other medicines.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Targretin® Capsules; Eisai Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated August 2015.
  • British National Formulary; 69th Edition (Mar 2015) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
3822 (v25)
Last Checked:
29/09/2015
Next Review:
28/09/2018
The Information Standard - certified member

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