Alitretinoin (Topical)

Alitretinoin is a topical treatment for Kaposi's com/health/coma/">sarcoma related to AIDS in cases where intravenous or oral medication is not needed.


Alitretinoin is in a drug class known as retinoids, which are related to vitamin A. It affects the development and growth of skin cells.

Alitretinoin is a topical medication that helps treat skin lesions brought about by Kaposi's sarcoma caused by AIDS.

It can also be used for other purposes not listed here.

Follow all instructions on the package and medicine label. Tell your healthcare provider about your allergies, medical conditions, as well as any medications you use.

Don't use this medication if you're allergic to it, tretinoin (Retin-A), or isotretinoin.

Before you apply this topical medication, let your healthcare giver know about all your allergies and medical disorders. Also make sure to tell your doctor if you're breastfeeding or pregnant.

If you're pregnant, don't apply Alitretinoin topical. It could hurt the unborn child. Use effective methods of birth control, and tell your healthcare giver if you get pregnant during treatment.

It's not clear whether this medication gets into human milk or if it might harm a breastfeeding baby. Don't breastfeed while using it.

Don't administer Alitretinoin on anyone under 18 without medical advice.

Conditions treated

  • Kaposi's sarcoma skin lesions

Type of medicine

  • Retinoid

Side effects

Many medications bring on side effects. The side effects may be minor or serious, temporary or permanent. The following Alitretinoin side effects aren't felt by everyone who uses this medicine. If the side effects bother you, discuss the pros and cons of using this medication with your doctor.

At least 1% of patients taking Alitretinoin have reported the side effects listed below. Many of them can be controlled, and some can gradually disappear on their own.

Contact your healthcare giver if you're subjected to the following side effects and they're bothersome or serious. Your pharmacist can show you how to manage them.

  • Dry nose or mouth
  • Itchy/dry skin (especially of the face and lips)
  • Flushing
  • Dry eyes (can persist after treatment is halted)
  • Mild headache
  • Increased skin sensitivity to sunlight
  • Thinning of hair (can continue after you've stopped treatment)
  • Nosebleeds/stomach upset/tenderness of eyes
  • Difficulty in inserting contact lenses (may persist after treatment is halted)

While the majority of the following side effects don't occur more often, they might result in serious issues if you don't seek medical attention or consult your doctor.

Make sure to contact your healthcare giver right away if you suffer any of the side effects below:

  • Joint or bone pain
  • Back pain
  • Suicide attempts or suicide thoughts (usually stops after discontinuing medication)
  • Decreased night vision
  • Burning, itching, redness, or other eye inflammation signs
  • Reduced thyroid hormones in blood
  • Rise in liver enzymes in blood
  • Mood changes
  • Muscle stiffness or pain
  • Headache (persistent or severe)
  • Increased triglycerides and cholesterol in blood
  • Skin peeling on soles of feet or palms of hands
  • Redness, scaling, pain, burning, or other signs of swollen lips
  • Signs of bleeding (like blood in urine, bloody nose, coughing blood, cuts that incessantly bleed, and bleeding gums)
  • Signs of reduced thyroid function (such as constipation, weight gain, cold tolerance, and fatigue)
  • Signs of depression (such as changes in weight, poor concentration, suicide thoughts, reduced interest in activities, and changes in sleep)
  • Signs of bowel disease (such as severe stomach or abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, and severe diarrhea)
  • Signs of increased blood sugar (such as frequent urination, excessive eating, increased thirst, poor wound healing, unexplained weight loss, fruity breath odor, and infections).

Stop taking Alitretinoin and seek treatment immediately if any of these occur:

  • Signs of high blood pressure in your brain (like lasting headache, vomiting, nausea, changes in vision)
  • Signs of severe allergic reaction (like abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, difficulty breathing, or swollen throat or face)
  • Signs of serious skin reaction (like peeling, blistering, a rash that covers a large part of the body, spreads quickly, or one combined with discomfort or fever)
  • Signs of changes in vision (like blurred vision, cloud surface on eyes, and distorted vision)

Some people may suffer other side effects not listed above. Consult your healthcare giver if you have any symptoms that trouble you while using Alitretinoin.


Follow all the medication's instruction on the label. Don't apply Alitretinoin topical in bigger or small quantities for longer than your doctor recommends.

Wash your hands prior to and after applying this medication, unless you're treating areas of skin on your hands.

Use this medicine only on affected skin lesions. Don't apply it on the healthy areas around the lesions.

Allow the medication three to five minutes to dry before covering the treated skin with a piece of cloth. Don't swim, shower, or bathe for at least three hours after using the medication.

Don't cover the treated area of skin using a bandage or other covering unless told by your doctor.

It can take at least 14 weeks before your symptoms ease. Keep using Alitretinoin as instructed and let your healthcare giver know if your symptoms don't improve.

Don't share Alitretinoin with anyone else, even if they've got similar symptoms.

An Alitretinoin overdose is usually not serious. Seek emergency treatment or contact your local poison control agency if anyone accidentally ingests the medicine.

Take the missed dose whenever you remember. If your next dose is just minutes away, skip that missed dose. Don't take extra medication to offset your missed dose.


Alitretinoin may interact with any of these drugs:

  • Azole antifungals like itraconazole, voriconazole, and ketoconazole
  • Boceprevir
  • Nefazodone
  • Carbamazepine
  • Methotrexate
  • Progestins
  • Progestin-based birth control pills
  • Vitamin A/other retinoids
  • Telaprevir
  • Tetracycline antibiotics like tetracycline, minocycline, and doxycycline
  • Macrolide antibiotics like erythromycin, and clarithromycin
  • HIV protease inhibitors like atazanavir, ritonavir, indinavir, saquinavir
  • Minerals/multivitamins (with vitamins K, E, D, A, iron, or folate)

If you're using any of these medicines, consult your pharmacist/doctor. Depending on your particular case, your doctor may ask you to:

  • Stop using one of the medicines
  • Swap one of the drugs for another
  • Change the way you're using both or one of the drugs
  • Leave everything the way it is

When two medications interact, this doesn't always mean you stop using one of them. Consult your healthcare giver about how drug interactions should be controlled or how they're controlled.

Other medications not listed above can interact with Alitretinoin. Tell your pharmacist/doctor about all the over-the-counter, prescription, or herbal medicines you are using. Also let them know if you're taking any supplements. As street drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine can affect the function of many medicines, you should tell your doctor if you're using them.


Before you use this medication, inform your healthcare provider if you're allergic to vitamin A-related medicines like Alitretinoin, isotretinoin, or tretinoin. Let them know if you've got other allergies as well. Alitretinoin may have some inactive compounds, which can bring on allergic reactions or several other problems. Tell your pharmacist to get more details.

Before using Alitretinoin topical, disclose your medical history to your doctor/pharmacist, especially of a specific kind of cancer (i.e. skin T-cell lymphoma).

This medication can make one hypersensitive to the skin. Reduce the time you spend in the sunshine. Avoid sunlamps and tanning booths. Use sunscreen and put on protective clothing when you're outdoors. Inform your doctor as soon as you can if you have skin redness or blisters or you get sunburned.

This topical medicine is not to be used by pregnant women. Talk to your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of this medication.

As Alitretinoin is absorbed via the skin and can harm the fetus. Pregnant women or those who are planning to get pregnant should avoid the medication.

It's uncertain whether Alitretinoin passes into human milk. Due to the potential risk to the baby, breastfeeding is not advisable while using this medication. Talk to your healthcare giver before breastfeeding.


  • Store Alitretinoin in a sealed container away from moisture, heat, direct light, and at room temperature
  • Do not freeze
  • Don't keep medication that's no longer needed or one that's outdated
  • Keep away and out of reach of kids


Honor all your doctor's appointments. Alitretinoin is only for external use. Don't allow it to get into your mouth, nostrils, eyes, or broken skin. Don't swallow it.

Don't apply bandages, dressings, lotions, cosmetics, or other skin medicines to the part being treated unless you're told to by your doctor.

Don't allow anyone to use your medicine. Ask your pharmacist/doctor any questions about getting a new prescription. Let your doctor know if the condition of your skin doesn't improve, or if it worsens.

It's vital to keep a list of all non-prescription or prescription medicines you're using, as well as any products like minerals, vitamins, or dietary supplements. Take this list to your doctor each time you visit them or you're admitted to hospital. It's also vital to have this list on hand in case of an emergency.

Last Reviewed:
December 10, 2017
Last Updated:
April 04, 2018