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Bexarotene (Targretin)

Find out what bexarotene is, how you have it and other important information about having bexarotene. 

Bexarotene (prounounced becks-a-roh-teen) is a cancer treatment drug and is also known by its brand name Targretin (pronounced tar-gree-tin).

It is a treatment for advanced skin lymphomas called cutaneous T cell lymphomas. These include mycosis fungoides and Sezary syndrome.

How it works

Bexarotene is a retinoid. Retinoids are drugs related to vitamin A. They work by slowing or stopping the growth of cells.

How you have it

Bexarotene is a capsule. You take the capsules once a day. The number of capsules you take each day depends on your individual needs.

Swallow the capsules whole with plenty of water. You should take them with food or immediately after eating. 

Taking capsules

You must take your capsules according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you.

Whether you have a full or empty stomach can affect how much of a drug gets into your bloodstream.

You should take the right dose, not more or less.

When you have it

You usually continue taking bexarotene for as long as the treatment works. 

Tests during treatment

You have blood tests before starting treatment and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.

Side effects

Important information

Other medicines, foods and drink

Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.

Grapefruit and grapefruit juice

You should not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice when you are taking this drug because it can react with the drug.

Pregnancy and contraception

This drug may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment with this drug and for at least a month afterwards.

Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.

Breastfeeding

Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in your breast milk.

Treatment for other conditions

Always tell other doctors, nurses or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.

Immunisations

Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for at least 6 months afterwards.

In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and Zostavax (shingles vaccine).

You can:

  • have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
  • have the flu vaccine
  • be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections

Avoid contact with people who’ve had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines). This includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s urine for up to 2 weeks and can make you ill. So, you mustn't change their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination.

You also need to avoid anyone who has had oral polio or typhoid vaccination recently.

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.