Bexarotene (Topical)

Bexarotene (On The Skin)

Bexarotene (beks-AIR-oh-teen)

Treats skin sores in patients with a type of cancer called cutaneous 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.

How to Use This Medicine:


  • Your doctor will tell you how much of this medicine to apply and how often. Do not use more medicine or apply it more often than your doctor tells you to.  
  • This medicine is for use on the skin only. Do not get it in your eyes, nose, mouth, genitals, or rectum. Do not use on areas of the skin that have cuts or scrapes.  
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after using this medicine.  
  • Apply enough gel to completely and thoroughly cover the sore. Be careful to not get any gel on the normal skin around the sore.  
  • Allow the treated area to dry before putting clothes on. Do not cover the treated area with a bandage unless your doctor has told you to.  
  • You may need to use the gel for 4 weeks or longer before the sores begin to get better.  
  • Never share your medicine with anyone.

If a dose is missed::

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

How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine:

  • Store the medicine at room temperature, away from heat and direct light.  
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

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

  • Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while you are using this medicine.  
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are also using ketoconazole (Nizoralreg;), itraconazole (Sporanoxreg;), erythromycin, or vitamin A supplements (including multivitamins).  
  • Do not use any product containing DEET during the time you are being treated with bexarotene. DEET is a common ingredient in many insect repellents.

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. Use two effective forms of birth control beginning one month before you start using bexarotene until one month after you stop using it.  
  • If a pregnancy occurs while you are using this medicine, tell your doctor right away. Your doctor may want you to have a pregnancy test each month while you are using this medicine.  
  • If you are breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before taking this medicine.  
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you have ever had a reaction to other retinoids, such as etretinate (Tegisonreg;), tretinoin (Retin-Areg;, Renovareg;), or isotretinoin (Accutanereg;), or if you have liver or kidney disease.  
  • This medicine may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Use a sunscreen when outdoors. Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

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

  • Rash, itching, blistering, redness, or pain where you have applied the medicine

Johns Hopkins patient information

Copyright 1996-2014 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 16.02.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Tatiana Kuznetsova, D.M.D.

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