Targretin Gel Side Effects Center

Last updated on RxList: 7/11/2022
Targretin Gel Side Effects Center

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

What Is Targretin Gel?

Targretin (bexarotene) 1% Gel is a retinoid used to treat skin lesions of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) (Stage 1A and 1B) in patients who have not responded to or not tolerated other therapies.

What Are Side Effects of Targretin Gel?

Common side effects of Targretin Gel include:

  • skin redness
  • itching
  • warmth
  • swelling
  • burning
  • scaling
  • stinging
  • pain
  • dryness
  • peeling, or
  • other irritation

Seek medical care or call 911 at once if you have the following serious side effects:

  • Serious eye symptoms such as sudden vision loss, blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights;
  • Serious heart symptoms such as fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeats; fluttering in your chest; shortness of breath; and sudden dizziness, lightheartedness, or passing out;
  • Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, arm or leg weakness, trouble walking, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady, very stiff muscles, high fever, profuse sweating, or tremors.

This document does not contain all possible side effects and others may occur. Check with your physician for additional information about side effects.

Dosage for Targretin Gel

Targretin gel should be initially applied at a dosing frequency once every other day for the first week. The application frequency should be increased at weekly intervals to once daily, then twice daily, then three times daily and finally four times daily according to individual lesion tolerance.

What Drugs, Substances, or Supplements Interact with Targretin Gel?

Targretin may interact with vitamin A supplements, insect repellents or other products that contain DEET, and other topical products used on the affected area at the same time. Tell your doctor all medications and supplements you use.

Targretin Gel During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Targretin gel must not be given to a pregnant woman or a woman who intends to become pregnant. It can harm a fetus. It is unknown if this drug passes into breast milk. Consult your doctor before breastfeeding.

Additional Information

Our Targretin (bexarotene) 1% Gel Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.


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Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Stop using bexarotene topical and call your doctor at once if you have severe skin irritation (rash, itching, burning, redness, scaling) after applying the medicine.

Common side effects may include:

  • mild rash, itching, or skin irritation; or
  • skin dryness or peeling.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Read the entire detailed patient monograph for Targretin Gel (Bexarotene Gel)


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The safety of Targretin® gel has been assessed in clinical studies of 117 patients with CTCL who received Targretin® gel for up to 172 weeks. In the multicenter open-label study, 50 patients with CTCL received Targretin® gel for up to 98 weeks. The mean duration of therapy for these 50 patients was 199 days. The most common adverse events reported with an incidence at the application site of at least 10% in patients with CTCL were rash, pruritus, skin disorder, and pain.

Adverse events leading to dose reduction or study drug discontinuation in at least two patients were rash, contact dermatitis, and pruritus.

Of the 49 patients (98%) who experienced any adverse event, most experienced events categorized as mild (9 patients, 18%) or moderate (27 patients, 54%). There were 12 patients (24%) who experienced at least one moderately severe adverse event. The most common moderately severe events were rash (7 patients, 14%) and pruritus (3 patients, 6%). Only one patient (2%) experienced a severe adverse event (rash).

In the patients with CTCL receiving Targretin® gel, adverse events reported regardless of relationship to study drug at an incidence of 5% are presented in Table 1.

A similar safety profile for Targretin® gel was demonstrated in the Phase I-II program. For the 67 patients enrolled in the Phase I-II program, the mean duration of treatment was 436 days (range 12-1203 days). As in the multicenter study, the most common adverse events regardless of relationship to study drug in the Phase I-II program were rash (78%), pain (40%), and pruritus (40%).

Table 1: Incidence of All Adverse Events* and Application Site Adverse Events with Incidence ≥ 5% for All Application Frequencies of Targretin® Gel in the Multicenter CTCL Study

COSTART 5 Body System/Preferred Term All Adverse Events
N = 50
n (%)
Application Site Adverse Events
N = 50
n (%)
Skin and Appendages
  Contact Dermatitis1 7 (14) 4 (8)
  Exfoliative Dermatitis 3 (6) 0
  Pruritus2 18 (36) 9 (18)
  Rash3 36 (72) 28 (56)
  Maculopapular Rash 3 (6) 0
  Skin Disorder (NOS)4 13 (26) 9 (18)
  Sweating 3 (6) 0
Body as a Whole
  Asthenia 3 (6) 0
  Headache 7 (14) 0
  Infection 9 (18) 0
  Pain 15 (30) 9 (18)
  Edema 5 (10) 0
  Peripheral Edema 3 (6) 0
Hemic and Lymphatic
  Leukopenia 3 (6) 0
  Lymphadenopathy 3 (6) 0
  WBC Abnormal 3 (6) 0
Metabolic and Nutritional
  Hyperlipemia 5 (10) 0
  Paresthesia 3 (6) 3 (6)
  Cough Increased 3 (6) 0
  Pharyngitis 3 (6) 0
* Regardless of association with treatment Includes Investigator terms such as:
1 Contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, irritant dermatitis
2 Pruritus, itching, itching of lesion
3 Erythema, scaling, irritation, redness, rash, dermatitis
4 Skin inflammation, excoriation, sticky or tacky sensation of skin; NOS = Not Otherwise Specified

Read the entire FDA prescribing information for Targretin Gel (Bexarotene Gel)

© Targretin Gel Patient Information is supplied by Cerner Multum, Inc. and Targretin Gel Consumer information is supplied by First Databank, Inc., used under license and subject to their respective copyrights.

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