Alitretinoin treats skin lesions in people with AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. Do not shower or swim until at least three (3) hours after application of alitretinoin gel.

Alitretinoin Overview


Alitretinoin is a prescription medication used to treat skin lesions associated with AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. It belongs to a group of drugs called retinoids. These helps stop the growth of Kaposi's sarcoma cells.

Alitretinoin comes in gel form. It is used 2 to 4 times daily.

Common side effects include rash, warmth or slight stinging of the skin, and lightening or darkening of the skin.

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  • Other
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi
  • Skin Diseases

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Uses of Alitretinoin

Alitretinoin is a prescription medication used to treat skin lesions associated with Kaposi's sarcoma.

This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Alitretinoin Brand Names

Alitretinoin may be found in some form under the following brand names:

Alitretinoin Drug Class

Alitretinoin is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Alitretinoin

Common side effects include the following:

  • warmth or slight stinging of the skin
  • lightening or darkening of the skin
  • red, scaling skin
  • rash
  • swelling, blistering, or crusting of the skin
  • pain at site of application
  • itching

This is not a complete list of this medication’s side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Alitretinoin Interactions

No drug interactions have been studied. However, you should tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Not all drug interactions are known or reported and new drug interactions are continually being reported.

Alitretinoin Precautions

  • Do not apply gel on or near mucosal surfaces of the body such as eyes, nostrils, mouth, lips, vagina, tip of the penis, rectum or anus.
  • Do not use insect repellents containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or other products containing DEET while using this medication.
  • Product contains alcohol and should be kept away from open flame.
  • Do not use alitretinoin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Precautions should be taken to avoid becoming pregnant while taking alitretinoin. If you are pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant, or breastfeeding, speak with your health care provider for more information.
  • Do not use if you are allergic to alitretinoin or any of its inactive ingredients.
  • Alitretinoin may make your skin sensitive to sunlight.
  • Topical alitretinoin gel does not treat lung or intestinal Kaposi's sarcoma.
  • Topical alitretinoin gel does not prevent the appearance of new KS lesions or the
  • increased growth of KS lesions not treated with alitretinoin gel.
  • Topical alitretinoin gel does not treat extremity swelling associated with KS. It is important to understand that KS lesions can appear and affect other parts of your body, including internal organs (e.g., lungs and intestines). You should regularly consult your health care provider about the status of your KS disease, especially if you note changes.

Alitretinoin Food Interactions

Medications can interact with certain foods. In some cases, this may be harmful and your doctor may advise you to avoid certain foods. In the case of this medication, there are no specific foods that you must exclude from your diet.

Inform MD

Before using alitretinoin,

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to alitretinoin, etretinate, isotretinoin, tazarotene, tretinoin, or any other drugs.
  • tell your doctor what other medications you are taking, including vitamins or herbal products. Do not use insect repellants that contain DEET while using alitretinoin.
  • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had a type of skin cancer known as T-cell lymphoma.
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while using alitretinoin, call your doctor immediately. You should not plan to become pregnant while using alitretinoin.
  • plan to avoid unnecessary or prolonged exposure to sunlight and to wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Alitretinoin may make your skin sensitive to sunlight.

Alitretinoin and Pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

The FDA categorizes medications based on safety for use during pregnancy. Five categories - A, B, C, D, and X, are used to classify the possible risks to an unborn baby when a medication is taken during pregnancy.

This medication falls into category D. If you become pregnant while using alitretinoin, call your doctor immediately. You should not plan to become pregnant while using alitretinoin.

Alitretinoin and Lactation

Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed.

It is not known if this medication crosses into human milk. Because many medications can cross into human milk and because of the possibility for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants with use of this medication, a choice should be made whether to stop nursing or stop the use of this medication. Your doctor and you will decide if the benefits outweigh the risk of using this medication.

Alitretinoin Usage

Alitretinoin comes in topical gel. Alitretinoin is usually used twice a day. Your doctor may tell you to use alitretinoin more or less frequently depending on your response to it. Use alitretinoin exactly as directed. Do not use more or less of it or use it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

What to avoid:

  • You should avoid applying the gel to areas of healthy skin around a KS lesion. Exposure of healthy skin to alitretinoin gel may cause unnecessary irritation or redness.
  • You should avoid showering, bathing, or swimming until at least three (3) hours after any application, if possible.
  • You should avoid covering the KS lesions treated with gel with any bandage or material other than loose clothing.
  • You should avoid prolonged exposure of the treated area to sunlight or other ultraviolet (UV) light (such as tanning lamps).
  • You should avoid the use of other topical products on your treated KS lesions. Mineral oil may be used between alitretinoin gel applications in order to help prevent excessive dryness or itching. However, mineral oil should not be applied for at least two (2) hours before or after the application of alitretinoin gel.
  • You should avoid scratching the treated areas.
  • Do not apply dressings, bandages, cosmetics, lotions, or other skin medications to the area being treated unless your doctor tells you.
  • Alitretinoin is for external use only. Do not let alitretinoin get into your eyes, your nostrils, mouth, or any broken skin, and do not swallow it.

Alitretinoin Dosage

Take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully. The dose your doctor recommends may be based on the following:

  • the condition being treated
  • other medical conditions you have
  • other medications you are taking
  • how you respond to this medication
  • your weight
  • your height
  • your age
  • your gender

Sufficient gel should be applied to cover the lesion with a generous coating. The gel should be allowed to dry for 3 to 5 minutes before covering with clothing.

Alitretinoin Overdose

If you take too much this medication, call your healthcare provider or local Poison Control Center, or seek emergency medical attention right away.

If this medication is administered by a healthcare provider in a medical setting, it is unlikely that an overdose will occur. However, if overdose is suspected, seek emergency medical attention.

Other Requirements

  • Store at room temperature.
  • Do not be discouraged if you do not see immediate improvement.
  • Do not stop treatment at the first sign of improvement.
  • Alitretinoin gel takes time to work, up to 14 weeks or more of treatment.
  • Keep this and all other medications out of the reach of children.