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Acitretin: Drug information

Acitretin: Drug information
(For additional information see "Acitretin: Patient drug information")

For abbreviations, symbols, and age group definitions used in Lexicomp (show table)
ALERT: US Boxed Warning
Pregnancy:

Acitretin must not be used by females who are pregnant, or who intend to become pregnant during therapy or at any time for at least 3 years following discontinuation of therapy. Acitretin also must not be used by females who may not use reliable contraception while undergoing treatment and for at least 3 years following discontinuation of treatment. Acitretin is a metabolite of etretinate, and major human fetal abnormalities have been reported with the administration of etretinate and acitretin. Potentially, any fetus exposed can be affected.

Clinical evidence has shown that concurrent ingestion of acitretin and ethanol has been associated with the formation of etretinate, which has a significantly longer elimination half-life than acitretin. Because the longer elimination half-life of etretinate would increase the duration of teratogenic potential for female patients, ethanol must not be ingested by female patients of childbearing potential either during treatment with acitretin or for 2 months after cessation of therapy. This allows for elimination of acitretin, thus removing the substrate for transesterification to etretinate. The mechanism of the metabolic process for conversion of acitretin to etretinate has not been fully defined. It is not known whether substances other than ethanol are associated with transesterification.

Acitretin has been shown to be embryotoxic and/or teratogenic in rabbits, mice, and rats at doses of 0.6, 3, and 15 mg/kg, respectively. These doses are approximately 0.2, 0.3, and 3 times the maximum recommended therapeutic dose, respectively, based on a mg/m2 comparison.

Major human fetal abnormalities associated with acitretin and/or etretinate administration have been reported, including meningomyelocele, meningoencephalocele, multiple synostoses, facial dysmorphia, syndactyly, absence of terminal phalanges, malformations of hip, ankle and forearm, low-set ears, high palate, decreased cranial volume, cardiovascular malformation, and alterations of the skull and cervical vertebrae.

Acitretin should be prescribed only by those who have special competence in the diagnosis and treatment of severe psoriasis, are experienced in the use of systemic retinoids, and understand the risk of teratogenicity.

Because of the teratogenicity of acitretin, a program called the Do Your P.A.R.T program (Pregnancy Prevention Actively Required During and After Treatment), has been developed to educate women of childbearing potential and their health care providers about the serious risks associated with acitretin and to help prevent pregnancies from occurring with the use of this drug and for 3 years after its discontinuation. The Do Your P.A.R.T. program requirements and program materials are available at http://www.soriatane.com/doyour-part-Program.html or may be requested by calling 1-888-784- 3335 (1-888-STIEFEL).

Important information for women of childbearing potential:

Acitretin should be considered only for women with severe psoriasis unresponsive to other therapies or whose clinical condition contraindicates the use of other treatments.

Females of reproductive potential must not be given a prescription for acitretin until pregnancy is excluded. Acitretin is contraindicated in females of reproductive potential unless the patient meets all of the following conditions:

Must have had 2 negative urine or serum pregnancy tests with a sensitivity of at least 25 milliunits/mL before receiving the initial acitretin prescription. The first test (a screening test) is obtained by the prescriber when the decision is made to pursue acitretin therapy. The second pregnancy test (a confirmation test) should be done during the first 5 days of the menstrual period immediately preceding the beginning of acitretin therapy. For patients with amenorrhea, the second test should be done at least 11 days after the last act of unprotected sexual intercourse (without using 2 effective forms of contraception [birth control] simultaneously). If the second pregnancy test is negative, initiation of treatment should begin within 7 days of the specimen collection. Acitretin should be limited to a monthly supply.

Must have a pregnancy test with a sensitivity of at least 25 milliunits/mL repeated every month during treatment with acitretin. The patient must have a negative result from a urine or serum pregnancy test before receiving a prescription for acitretin. To encourage compliance with this recommendation, a monthly supply of the drug should be prescribed. For at least 3 years after discontinuing therapy, a pregnancy test must be repeated every 3 months.

Must have selected and have committed to use 2 effective forms of contraception (birth control) simultaneously, at least 1 of which must be a primary form, unless absolute abstinence is the chosen method, or the patient has undergone a hysterectomy or is clearly postmenopausal.

Patients must use 2 effective forms of contraception (birth control) simultaneously for at least 1 month prior to initiation of acitretin therapy, during acitretin therapy, and for at least 3 years after discontinuing acitretin therapy. A contraception counseling referral form is available so that patients can receive an initial free contraception counseling session and pregnancy testing. Counseling about contraception and behaviors associated with an increased risk of pregnancy must be repeated on a monthly basis by the prescriber during acitretin therapy and every 3 months for at least 3 years following discontinuation of acitretin. Effective forms of contraception include both primary and secondary forms of contraception. Primary forms of contraception include the following: tubal ligation, partner's vasectomy, intrauterine devices, birth control pills, and injectable/implantable/insertable/topical hormonal birth control products. Secondary forms of contraception include latex condoms (with or without spermicide), diaphragms, and cervical caps (which must be used with a spermicide) and vaginal sponges (contains spermicide). Any birth control method can fail. Therefore, it is critically important that women of childbearing potential use 2 effective forms of contraception (birth control) simultaneously. It has not been established if there is a pharmacokinetic interaction between acitretin and combined oral contraceptives. However, it has been established that acitretin interferes with the contraceptive effect of microdosed progestin preparations. Microdosed “minipill” progestin preparations are not recommended for use with acitretin. It is not known whether other progestin-only contraceptives, such as implants and injectables, are adequate methods of contraception during acitretin therapy. Prescribers are advised to consult the package insert of any medication administered concomitantly with hormonal contraceptives because some medications may decrease the effectiveness of these birth control products. Patients should be prospectively cautioned not to self-medicate with the herbal supplement St. John's wort because a possible interaction has been suggested with hormonal contraceptives based on reports of breakthrough bleeding on oral contraceptives shortly after starting St. John's wort. Pregnancies have been reported by users of combined hormonal contraceptives who also used some form of St. John's wort.

Must have signed a Patient Agreement/Informed Consent for Female Patients that contains warnings about the risk of potential birth defects if the fetus is exposed to acitretin, about contraceptive failure, and about the fact that they must not ingest beverages or products containing ethanol while taking acitretin and for 2 months after acitretin treatment has been discontinued, and about preventing pregnancy while taking acitretin and for at least 3 years after discontinuing treatment.

If pregnancy does occur during acitretin therapy or at any time for at least 3 years following discontinuation of acitretin therapy, the prescriber and patient should discuss the possible effects on the pregnancy. The available information is as follows:

Acitretin, the active metabolite of etretinate, is teratogenic and is contraindicated during pregnancy. The risk of severe fetal malformations is well established when systemic retinoids are taken during pregnancy. Pregnancy must also be prevented after stopping acitretin therapy, while the drug is being eliminated to below a threshold blood concentration that would be associated with an increased incidence of birth defects. Because this threshold has not been established for acitretin in humans and because elimination rates vary among patients, the duration of posttherapy contraception to achieve adequate elimination cannot be calculated precisely. It is strongly recommended that contraception be continued for at least 3 years after stopping treatment with acitretin, based on the following considerations:

In the absence of transesterification to form etretinate, greater than 98% of the acitretin would be eliminated within 2 months, assuming a mean elimination half-life of 49 hours.

In cases where etretinate is formed, as has been demonstrated with concomitant administration of acitretin and ethanol, greater than 98% of the etretinate formed would be eliminated in 2 years, assuming a mean elimination half-life of 120 days, and greater than 98% of the etretinate formed would be eliminated in 3 years, based on the longest demonstrated elimination half-life of 168 days. However, etretinate was found in plasma and subcutaneous fat in 1 patient reported to have had sporadic alcohol intake, 52 months after she stopped acitretin therapy.

Severe birth defects have been reported where conception occurred during the time interval when the patient was being treated with acitretin and/or etretinate. In addition, severe birth defects have also been reported when conception occurred after the mother completed therapy. These cases have been reported both prospectively (before the outcome was known) and retrospectively (after the outcome was known). The events below are listed without distinction as to whether the reported birth defects are consistent with retinoid-induced embryopathy or not.

There have been 318 prospectively reported cases involving pregnancies and the use of etretinate, acitretin, or both. In 238 of these cases, the conception occurred after the last dose of etretinate (103 cases), acitretin (126), or both (9). Fetal outcome remained unknown in approximately one-half of these cases, of which 62 were terminated and 14 were spontaneous abortions. Fetal outcome is known for the other 118 cases and 15 of the outcomes were abnormal (including cases of absent hand/wrist, clubfoot, GI malformation, hypocalcemia, hypotonia, limb malformation, neonatal apnea/anemia, neonatal ichthyosis, placental disorder/death, undescended testicle, and 5 cases of premature birth). In the 126 prospectively reported cases where conception occurred after the last dose of acitretin only, 43 cases involved conception at least 1 year but less than 2 years after the last dose. There were 3 reports of abnormal outcomes out of these 43 cases (involving limb malformation, GI tract malformations, and premature birth). There were only 4 cases where conception occurred at least 2 years after the last dose but there were no reports of birth defects in these cases.

There is also a total of 35 retrospectively reported cases where conception occurred at least 1 year after the last dose of etretinate, acitretin, or both. From these cases, there are 3 reports of birth defects when the conception occurred at least 1 year but less than 2 years after the last dose of acitretin (including heart malformations, Turner syndrome, and unspecified congenital malformations) and 4 reports of birth defects when conception occurred 2 or more years after the last dose of acitretin (including foot malformation, cardiac malformations [2 cases], and unspecified neonatal and infancy disorder). There were 3 additional abnormal outcomes in cases where conception occurred 2 or more years after the last dose of etretinate (including chromosome disorder, forearm aplasia, and stillbirth).

Females who have taken etretinate must continue to follow the contraceptive recommendations for etretinate. Etretinate is no longer marketed in the United States; for information, call the manufacturer at 1-888-784-3335 (1-888-STIEFEL).

Patients should not donate blood during and for at least 3 years following the completion of acitretin therapy because women of childbearing potential must not receive blood from patients being treated with acitretin.

Important information for males taking acitretin:

Patients should not donate blood during and for at least 3 years following acitretin therapy because women of childbearing potential must not receive blood from patients being treated with acitretin.

Samples of seminal fluid from 3 male patients treated with acitretin and 6 male patients treated with etretinate have been assayed for the presence of acitretin. The maximum concentration of acitretin observed in the seminal fluid of these men was 12.5 ng/mL. Assuming an ejaculate volume of 10 mL, the amount of drug transferred in semen would be 125 ng, which is 1/200,000 of a single 25 mg capsule. Thus, although it appears that residual acitretin in seminal fluid poses little, if any, risk to a fetus while a male patient is taking the drug or after it is discontinued, the no-effect limit for teratogenicity is unknown and there is no registry for birth defects associated with acitretin. The available data are as follows:

There have been 25 cases of reported conception when the male partner was taking acitretin. The pregnancy outcome is known in 13 of these 25 cases. Of these, 9 reports were retrospective and 4 were prospective (meaning the pregnancy was reported prior to knowledge of the outcome).

When acitretin treatment was given at time of conception, there were 5 deliveries of healthy neonates (4 of 5 cases were prospective), 5 spontaneous abortions, and 1 induced abortion.

When acitretin was discontinued approximately 4 weeks prior to conception, there was 1 induced abortion (with malformation pattern not typical of retinoid embryopathy [bilateral cystic hygromas of neck, hypoplasia of lungs bilateral, pulmonary atresia, ventricular septal defect with overriding truncus arteriosus]).

When acitretin was discontinued approximately 6 to 8 months prior to conception, there was 1 spontaneous abortion.

Medication guide (for all patients):

An acitretin Medication Guide must be given to the patient each time acitretin is dispensed, as required by law.

Hepatotoxicity:

Of the 525 patients treated in US clinical trials, 2 had clinical jaundice with elevated serum bilirubin and transaminases considered related to acitretin treatment. Liver function test results in these patients returned to normal after acitretin was discontinued. Two of the 1,289 patients treated in European clinical trials developed biopsy-confirmed toxic hepatitis. A second biopsy in 1 of these patients revealed nodule formation suggestive of cirrhosis. One patient in a Canadian clinical trial of 63 patients developed a 3-fold increase of transaminases. A liver biopsy of this patient showed mild lobular disarray, multifocal hepatocyte loss, and mild triaditis of the portal tracts compatible with acute reversible hepatic injury. The patient's transaminase levels returned to normal 2 months after acitretin was discontinued.

The potential of acitretin therapy to induce hepatotoxicity was prospectively evaluated using liver biopsies in an open-label study of 128 patients. Pretreatment and posttreatment biopsies were available for 87 patients. A comparison of liver biopsy findings before and after therapy revealed 58% of patients showed no change, 25% improved, and 17% of patients had a worsening of their liver biopsy status. For 6 patients, the classification changed from class 0 (no pathology) to class I (normal fatty infiltration; nuclear variability and portal inflammation; both mild); for 7 patients, the change was from class I to class II (fatty infiltration, nuclear variability, portal inflammation and focal necrosis; all moderate to severe); and for 1 patient, the change was from class II to class IIIb (fibrosis, moderate to severe). No correlation could be found between liver function test result abnormalities and the change in liver biopsy status, and no cumulative dose relationship was found.

Elevations of AST, ALT, gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT; GGTP), or lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) have occurred in approximately 1 in 3 patients treated with acitretin. Of the 525 patients treated in clinical trials in the United States, treatment was discontinued in 3.8% of patients due to elevated liver function test results. If hepatotoxicity is suspected during treatment with acitretin, the drug should be discontinued and the etiology further investigated.

Ten of 652 patients treated in US clinical trials of etretinate, of which acitretin is the active metabolite, had clinical or histologic hepatitis considered to be possibly or probably related to etretinate treatment. There have been reports of hepatitis-related deaths worldwide; a few of these patients had received etretinate for 1 month or less before presenting with hepatic symptoms or signs.

Brand Names: US
  • Soriatane [DSC]
Brand Names: Canada
  • MINT-Acitretin;
  • Soriatane;
  • TARO-Acitretin
Pharmacologic Category
  • Retinoid-Like Compound
Dosing: Adult
Psoriasis

Psoriasis: Oral: 10 to 50 mg once daily; reserve doses ≤25 mg/day for patients who do not tolerate higher doses (AAD/NPF [Menter 2020]). Note: Individualization of dosage is required to achieve maximum therapeutic response while minimizing side effects.

Disorders of keratinization

Disorders of keratinization (nonpsoriatic) (off-label use): Oral: Initial: 25 to 35 mg once daily for 4 weeks than adjust dose as needed; maintenance: 10 to 50 mg daily; maximum: 50 mg daily (Blanchet-Bardon 1991; Kullavanijava 1993; Soriatane Canadian product labeling).

Dosage adjustment for concomitant therapy: Significant drug interactions exist, requiring dose/frequency adjustment or avoidance. Consult drug interactions database for more information.

Dosing: Kidney Impairment: Adult

There are no dosage adjustments provided in manufacturer's labeling; use is contraindicated in patients with severely impaired renal function.

Hemodialysis: Not removed by hemodialysis

Dosing: Hepatic Impairment: Adult

There are no dosage adjustments provided in manufacturer’s labeling; use is contraindicated in patients with severely impaired liver function.

Dosing: Older Adult

Refer to adult dosing.

Dosage Forms: US

Excipient information presented when available (limited, particularly for generics); consult specific product labeling. [DSC] = Discontinued product

Capsule, Oral:

Soriatane: 10 mg [DSC], 25 mg [DSC] [contains edetate (edta) calcium disodium]

Generic: 10 mg, 17.5 mg, 25 mg

Generic Equivalent Available: US

Yes

Dosage Forms: Canada

Excipient information presented when available (limited, particularly for generics); consult specific product labeling.

Capsule, Oral:

Soriatane: 10 mg, 25 mg

Generic: 10 mg, 25 mg

Medication Guide and/or Vaccine Information Statement (VIS)

An FDA-approved patient medication guide, which is available with the product information and at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm089133.pdf, must be dispensed with this medication.

Administration: Adult

Administer with food, preferably with the main meal of the day.

Hazardous Drugs Handling Considerations

Hazardous agent (NIOSH 2016 [group 3]).

Use appropriate precautions for receiving, handling, administration, and disposal. Gloves (single) should be worn during receiving, unpacking, and placing in storage.

NIOSH recommends single gloving for administration of intact tablets or capsules (NIOSH 2016). Assess risk to determine appropriate containment strategy (USP-NF 2017).

Use: Labeled Indications

Psoriasis: Treatment of severe psoriasis in adults.

Limitations of use: Not for the treatment of acne.

Use: Off-Label: Adult

Disorders of keratinization

Medication Safety Issues
Sound-alike/look-alike issues:

Soriatane may be confused with Loxitane, sertraline, Sonata

High alert medication:

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) includes this medication among its list of drugs that have a heightened risk of causing significant patient harm when used in error.

Adverse Reactions

The following adverse drug reactions and incidences are derived from product labeling unless otherwise specified.

>10%:

Central nervous system: Hyperesthesia (10% to 25%), paresthesia (10% to 25%), rigors (10% to 25%)

Dermatologic: Cheilitis (>75%), alopecia (50% to 75%), exfoliation of skin (50% to 75%), xeroderma (25% to 50%), nail disease (25% to 50%), pruritus (25% to 50%), erythematous rash (10% to 25%), paronychia (10% to 25%), skin atrophy (10% to 25%), acquired cutaneous adherence (10% to 25%)

Endocrine & metabolic: Hypertriglyceridemia (50% to 75%), increased serum glucose (fasting; 25% to 50%), decreased HDL cholesterol (25% to 50%), hypercholesterolemia (25% to 50%), acetonuria (10% to 25%), decreased serum glucose (fasting; 10% to 25%), decreased serum magnesium (10% to 25%), hypermagnesemia (10% to 25%), hyperphospheremia (10% to 25%), increased gamma-glutamyl transferase (10% to 25%), increased serum potassium (10% to 25%), increased serum sodium (10% to 25%), increased uric acid (10% to 25%)

Gastrointestinal: Xerostomia (10% to 25%)

Genitourinary: Erythrocyturia (10% to 25%), hematuria (10% to 25%)

Hematologic & oncologic: Leukocyturia (25% to 50%), reticulocytosis (25% to 50%), increased haptoglobin (10% to 25%), decreased hematocrit (10% to 25%), decreased hemoglobin (10% to 25%), increased neutrophils (10% to 25%), change in WBC count (10% to 25%)

Hepatic: Increased liver enzymes (25% to 50%), increased serum alkaline phosphatase (10% to 25%), increased direct serum bilirubin (10% to 25%)

Neuromuscular & skeletal: Increased creatine phosphokinase (25% to 50%), arthralgia (10% to 25%), spinal hyperostosis (progression; 10% to 25%)

Ophthalmic: Xerophthalmia (10% to 25%)

Respiratory: Rhinitis (25% to 50%), epistaxis (10% to 25%)

1% to 10%:

Cardiovascular: Edema, flushing

Central nervous system: Bell's palsy, depression, drowsiness, fatigue, headache, hypertonia, insomnia, pain

Dermatologic: Abnormal hair texture, abnormal skin odor, Bullous skin disease, cold and clammy skin, dermatitis, diaphoresis (increased), madarosis, psoriasiform eruption, pyogenic granuloma, seborrhea, skin fissure, skin rash, sunburn

Endocrine & metabolic: Decreased haptoglobins, decreased serum albumin, decreased serum calcium, decreased serum iron, decreased serum potassium, decreased serum sodium, diaphoresis (increased), glycosuria, hot flash, hyperchloremia, hypochloremia, hypophosphatemia, increased serum albumin, increased serum calcium, increased serum iron, increased thirst

Gastrointestinal: Abdominal pain, anorexia, aphthous stomatitis, diarrhea, dysgeusia, gingival hemorrhage, gingivitis, increased appetite, nausea, sialorrhea, stomatitis, tongue disease

Genitourinary: Proteinuria

Hematologic & oncologic: Change in RBC count, decreased neutrophils, increased hematocrit, increased hemoglobin, reticulocytopenia, purpura

Hepatic: Increased serum bilirubin

Neuromuscular & skeletal: Arthritis, back pain, myalgia, ostealgia, osteoarthritis, peripheral joint hyperostosis

Ophthalmic: Blepharitis, blurred vision, cataract, conjunctivitis, diplopia, epithelial keratopathy, eye pain, nocturnal amblyopia, photophobia

Otic: Otalgia, tinnitus

Renal: Increased blood urea nitrogen, increased serum creatinine

Respiratory: Sinusitis

Miscellaneous: Ulcer

<1%: Abnormal gait, abnormal lacrimation, acne vulgaris, ageusia, aggressive behavior, alcohol intolerance, anal disease, angioedema, anxiety, bone disease, bursitis (olecranon), candidiasis, capillary leak syndrome, cerebrovascular accident, chalazion, chest pain, conjunctival hemorrhage, constipation, corneal lesion, corneal ulcer, cough, cutaneous nodule, cyanosis, cyst, deafness, decreased libido, diplopia, dizziness, dyspepsia, dysuria, ectropion, eczema, epidermal thinning, erythroderma, esophagitis, exfoliation of skin, exfoliative dermatitis, eye pruritus, fever, flu-like symptoms, fragile skin, fungal infection, furunculosis, gastritis, gastroenteritis, gingival hyperplasia, glossitis, hair discoloration, hemorrhage, hemorrhoids, hepatic cirrhosis, hepatic dysfunction, hepatitis, herpes simplex infection, hordeolum (recurrent), hyperkeratosis, hypersensitivity reaction, hypertrichosis, hypoesthesia, increased bronchial secretions, increased cerumen production, intermittent claudication, jaundice, laryngitis, leukorrhea, malaise, mastalgia, melena, migraine, myasthenia, myocardial infarction, myopathy (with peripheral neuropathy), nail disease (fragility), nervousness, neuritis, otitis media, pancreatitis, papilledema, peripheral ischemia, pharyngitis, prolonged bleeding time, pseudotumor cerebri, scleroderma, skin hypertrophy, skin photosensitivity, spinal hyperostosis (new lesion), suicidal ideation, tendinopathy, tenesmus, thromboembolism, tongue ulcer, urticaria, vaginitis, voice disorder, vulvovaginitis, warts, weight gain, wound healing impairment

Contraindications

Hypersensitivity (eg, angioedema, urticaria) to acitretin, other retinoids, or any component of the formulation; patients who are pregnant or intend on becoming pregnant during therapy or within 3 years after treatment discontinuation; severe hepatic or renal dysfunction; chronic abnormally elevated blood lipid levels; concomitant use with methotrexate or tetracyclines

Acitretin is contraindicated in females of childbearing potential unless all of the following conditions apply.

1) Patient has severe psoriasis unresponsive to other therapy or if clinical condition contraindicates other treatments.

2) Patient must have two negative urine or serum pregnancy tests prior to therapy.

3) Patient must have pregnancy test repeated monthly during therapy. After discontinuation of therapy, a pregnancy test must be repeated every 3 months for at least 3 years.

4) Patient must commit to using two effective forms of birth control starting 1 month prior to acitretin treatment and for 3 years after discontinuation. Prescriber must counsel patient about contraception every month during therapy and every 3 months following discontinuation for at least 3 years.

5) Patient is reliable in understanding and carrying out instructions.

6) Patient has received, and acknowledged, understanding of a careful oral and printed explanation of the hazards of fetal exposure to acitretin and the risk of possible contraception failure. Patient must sign an agreement/informed consent document stating that she understands these risks and that she should not consume ethanol during therapy or for 2 months after discontinuation.

Canadian labeling: Additional contraindications (not in US labeling): Breastfeeding; concomitant use with Vitamin A or other retinoids

Warnings/Precautions

Concerns related to adverse effects:

• Capillary leak syndrome: Capillary leak syndrome, a potential manifestation of retinoic acid syndrome (differentiation syndrome) has been reported with acitretin use. Capillary leak syndrome features may include localized or generalized edema with secondary weight gain, fever, and hypotension; rhabdomyolysis and myalgias have also been reported. Laboratory tests may show neutrophilia, hypoalbuminemia, and an elevated hematocrit. Discontinue use if capillary leak syndrome develops during therapy.

• Depression: Depression, including aggressive behavior and thoughts of self-harm have been reported; use with caution in patients with a history of mental illness.

• Exfoliative dermatitis: Exfoliative dermatitis has been reported with acitretin use; discontinue use if exfoliative dermatitis occurs during therapy.

• Hepatotoxicity: [US Boxed Warnings]: Hepatitis has been reported (including fatalities); some patients received etretinate for ≤1 month before presenting with hepatic signs or symptoms. Changes in transaminases have occurred in up to 1/3 of patients, which generally returned to normal after discontinuation of treatment. Monitor for hepatotoxicity; discontinue if hepatotoxicity is suspected.

• Lipid effects: Lipid changes, including increased triglycerides, increased cholesterol, and decreased HDL, are common (up to 66%), which were reversible upon discontinuation of treatment; increased triglycerides may lead to pancreatitis. Fatal fulminant pancreatitis has been reported. Use with caution in patients at risk of hypertriglyceridemia (eg, patients with lipid metabolism disturbances, diabetes mellitus, obesity, increased alcohol intake, or a familial history of these conditions). Consider discontinuation if hypertriglyceridemia and decreased HDL persist. Use is contraindicated in patients with chronic abnormally elevated blood lipid values.

• Otic effects: Tinnitus and impaired hearing have been reported with use; consider therapy discontinuation and further evaluation if clinically indicated.

• Photosensitivity: May be photosensitizing; minimize sun or other UV exposure to treated areas. The risk of burning is increased with phototherapy; decreased doses are required.

• Pseudotumor cerebri: Retinoids, including acitretin, have been associated with pseudotumor cerebri (benign intracranial hypertension). Concurrent use of other drugs associated with this effect (eg, tetracyclines) may increase risk. Early signs and symptoms include papilledema, headache, nausea, vomiting, and visual disturbances. Discontinue use in patients experiencing papilledema.

• Skeletal abnormalities: Patients receiving long-term treatment should be periodically examined for bony abnormalities; risk vs benefit of therapy should be considered if abnormalities occur.

• Visual disturbances: May cause adverse effects to the eyes and vision, including a decrease in night vision or decreased tolerance to contact lenses. Use caution when operating vehicles at night; discontinue if visual changes occur.

Disease-related concerns:

• Diabetes: Impaired glucose control has been reported with retinoid use. Use with caution in patients with diabetes mellitus; new cases of diabetes have been diagnosed.

Concurrent drug therapy issues:

• Ethanol use: [US Boxed Warning]: Female patients of childbearing potential should abstain from ethanol or ethanol-containing products during therapy and for 2 months after discontinuation.

Special populations:

• Females: [US Boxed Warning]: Females of childbearing potential must be able to fulfill all conditions for use prior to initiating therapy, including a Patient Agreement/Informed Consent (consult manufacturer's labeling for further detail). Prescriptions should be written for a monthly supply. The Do Your P.A.R.T. (Pregnancy Prevention Actively Required During and After Treatment) program explains teratogenic risks and requirements expected of females of childbearing potential to prevent pregnancies from occurring during use and 3 years following discontinuation; this should be used to educate patients and healthcare providers. Information for the Do Your P.A.R.T. program is available at www.soriatane.com/doyour-part-Program.html or by calling 1-888-784-3335.

• Pediatric: Safety and efficacy for pediatric patients have not been established; growth potential may be affected. Premature epiphyseal growth plate closure in pediatric patients may occur rarely (AAD/NPF [Menter 2020]).

• Pregnancy: [US Boxed Warning]: Acitretin is a known teratogen and contraindicated in females who are or may become pregnant. Birth defects (including facial, ear, central nervous system, cardiovascular, limb, bone, and joint) have been noted following acitretin exposure during pregnancy. Use only in women with severe psoriasis that is unresponsive to other therapies or with contraindications to the use of alternative treatments. Pregnancy must be avoided for at least 3 years after treatment discontinuation. Two reliable forms of contraception must be used simultaneously for 1 month prior to initiating therapy, during therapy, and for 3 years after discontinuation. Two negative pregnancy tests (sensitivity at least 25 milliunits/mL) are required prior to initiating therapy; pregnancy tests must be repeated every month during treatment. In addition, because ethanol forms a teratogenic metabolite and would increase the duration of teratogenic potential, ethanol should not be consumed during treatment or for 2 months after discontinuation. Any pregnancy which occurs during treatment, or within 3 years after treatment is discontinued, should be reported to the manufacturer at 1-888-784-3335 or to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Other warnings/precautions:

• Blood donation: [US Boxed Warning]: All patients should be advised not to donate blood during therapy or for 3 years following completion of therapy.

• Experienced physician: [US Boxed Warning]: Only physicians experienced with the diagnosis and treatment of severe psoriasis, including the use of retinoid treatment, and physicians who understand the risk of teratogenicity should prescribe acitretin.

• Medication guide: [US Boxed Warning]: All patients must be provided with a medication guide each time acitretin is dispensed. Female patients must also sign an informed consent prior to therapy.

• Subsequent use: Most patients experience relapse of psoriasis after discontinuing therapy. Subsequent courses, when clinically indicated, have produced results similar to the initial course of therapy.

• Worsening of disease: Transient worsening of psoriasis may initially occur; patients should be advised that it may take 2-3 months to achieve the full benefits of treatment.

Metabolism/Transport Effects

None known.

Drug Interactions

Note: Interacting drugs may not be individually listed below if they are part of a group interaction (eg, individual drugs within “CYP3A4 Inducers [Strong]” are NOT listed). For a complete list of drug interactions by individual drug name and detailed management recommendations, use the Lexicomp drug interactions program by clicking on the “Launch drug interactions program” link above.

Alcohol (Ethyl): May enhance the teratogenic effect of Acitretin. Risk X: Avoid combination

Aminolevulinic Acid (Systemic): Photosensitizing Agents may enhance the photosensitizing effect of Aminolevulinic Acid (Systemic). Risk X: Avoid combination

Aminolevulinic Acid (Topical): Photosensitizing Agents may enhance the photosensitizing effect of Aminolevulinic Acid (Topical). Risk C: Monitor therapy

Methotrexate: Acitretin may enhance the hepatotoxic effect of Methotrexate. Risk X: Avoid combination

Methoxsalen (Systemic): Photosensitizing Agents may enhance the photosensitizing effect of Methoxsalen (Systemic). Risk C: Monitor therapy

Multivitamins/Fluoride (with ADE): May enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Retinoic Acid Derivatives. Risk X: Avoid combination

Multivitamins/Minerals (with ADEK, Folate, Iron): May enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Retinoic Acid Derivatives. Risk X: Avoid combination

Multivitamins/Minerals (with AE, No Iron): May enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Retinoic Acid Derivatives. Risk X: Avoid combination

Porfimer: Photosensitizing Agents may enhance the photosensitizing effect of Porfimer. Risk C: Monitor therapy

Progestins (Contraceptive): Retinoic Acid Derivatives may diminish the therapeutic effect of Progestins (Contraceptive). Retinoic Acid Derivatives may decrease the serum concentration of Progestins (Contraceptive). Management: Two forms of effective contraception should be used in patients receiving retinoic acid derivatives. Microdosed progesterone-only preparations (ie, minipills that do not contain estrogen) are considered an inadequate method of contraception. Risk D: Consider therapy modification

Tetracyclines: May enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Retinoic Acid Derivatives. The development of pseudotumor cerebri is of particular concern. Risk X: Avoid combination

Verteporfin: Photosensitizing Agents may enhance the photosensitizing effect of Verteporfin. Risk C: Monitor therapy

Vitamin A: May enhance the adverse/toxic effect of Retinoic Acid Derivatives. Risk X: Avoid combination

Food Interactions

Ethanol: Use leads to formation of etretinate, a teratogenic metabolite with a prolonged half-life. Management: Female patients must avoid ethanol or ethanol-containing products concomitantly or within 2 months after discontinuing acitretin.

Food: Absorption increased when administered with food. Management: Take with food; avoid ingestion of additional sources of vitamin A (in excess of RDA).

Reproductive Considerations

Important information for women of childbearing potential:

[US Boxed Warning]: Pregnancy must be excluded prior to therapy. Acitretin must not be used by females who intend to become pregnant during therapy or at any time for at least 3 years following discontinuation of therapy.

Acitretin should be considered only for females of childbearing potential with severe psoriasis unresponsive to other therapies or whose clinical condition contraindicates the use of other treatments. Use is contraindicated in females of reproductive potential unless all conditions associated with use can be met, including two negative urine or serum pregnancy tests with a sensitivity of ≥25 mIU per mL before receiving the initial acitretin prescription; a pregnancy test every month during treatment; use of two effective forms of contraception simultaneously (at least one of which must be a primary form, unless absolute abstinence is the chosen method, or the patient has undergone a hysterectomy or is clearly postmenopausal). Female patients must sign the Patient Agreement/Informed Consent for Female Patients prior to beginning therapy. To encourage compliance with these recommendations, only a 1-month supply of the acitretin should be prescribed. Pregnancy testing must be repeated every 3 months for at least 3 years after acitretin is discontinued.

Effective contraception include both a primary (tubal ligation, partner's vasectomy, intrauterine devices, birth control pills, and injectable/implantable/insertable/topical hormonal birth control products) and secondary (condoms with or without spermicide, diaphragms and cervical caps which must be used with a spermicide, and vaginal sponges containing a spermicide) form. Microdosed "minipill" progestin preparations are not recommended. Concomitant therapy should be evaluated for potential drug interactions that may decrease the effectiveness of the birth control methods used. A 24-hour number (1-800-739-6700) is available for patients to receive automated birth control and emergency contraception information.

Female patients of childbearing potential should abstain from ethanol or ethanol-containing products during therapy and for 2 months after discontinuation.

Prescribing of acitretin should be done only by providers experienced with the diagnosis and treatment of severe psoriasis, including the use of retinoid treatment, and those who understand the risk of teratogenicity.

The Do Your P.A.R.T. (Pregnancy Prevention Actively Required During and After Treatment) program explains teratogenic risks and requirements expected of females of childbearing potential to prevent pregnancies from occurring during use and for at least 3 years following discontinuation; this should be used to educate patients and health care providers. Information for the Do Your P.A.R.T. program is available at www.soriatane.com/doyour-part-Program.html or by calling 1-888-784-3335.

Important information for males taking acitretin:

Samples of seminal fluid from 3 male patients treated with acitretin and 6 male patients treated with etretinate have been assayed for the presence of acitretin. The maximum concentration of acitretin observed in the seminal fluid of these men was 12.5 ng/mL. Assuming an ejaculate volume of 10 mL, the amount of drug transferred in semen would be 125 ng, which is 1/200,000 of a single 25 mg capsule. Thus, although it appears that residual acitretin in seminal fluid poses little, if any, risk to a fetus while a male patient is taking the drug or after it is discontinued, the no-effect limit for teratogenicity is unknown and there is no registry for birth defects associated with acitretin.

Pregnancy Considerations

[US Boxed Warning]: Acitretin must not be used by females who are pregnant.

Acitretin is a metabolite of etretinate; major birth defects have been reported with both etretinate and acitretin. Birth defects in humans include meningomyelocele; meningoencephalocele; multiple synostoses; facial dysmorphia; syndactyly; absence of terminal phalanges; malformations of hip, ankle, and forearm; low-set ears; high palate; decreased cranial volume; cardiovascular malformation; and alterations of the skull and cervical vertebrae. All exposed fetuses have the potential to be affected.

Pregnancy outcome information is available from prospectively (n=318) and retrospectively (n=35) collected data following exposure to etretinate and/or acitretin. Of the 318 prospectively reported pregnancies, conception occurred in 238 cases after the last maternal dose and fetal outcome is known in 118 cases: 15 were abnormal (absent hand/wrist, clubfoot, GI malformation, hypocalcemia, hypotonia, limb malformation, neonatal apnea/anemia, neonatal ichthyosis, placental disorder/death, undescended testicle, and five cases of premature birth), 62 pregnancies were terminated, and 14 ended in spontaneous abortion. Conception occurred ≥1 year after the last dose of etretinate and/or acitretin in the retrospective reports. When conception occurred ≥1 year but <2 years after the last dose of acitretin, birth defects occurred in three cases (including heart malformations, Turner syndrome, and unspecified congenital malformations). When conception occurred ≥2 years after the last dose of acitretin, birth defects occurred in four cases (including foot malformation, cardiac malformations [two cases], and unspecified neonatal and infancy disorder). When conception occurred ≥2 years after the last dose of etretinate, abnormal outcomes were noted in three cases (including chromosome disorder, forearm aplasia, and stillbirth).

If pregnancy occurs during acitretin therapy or at any time for at least 3 years following discontinuation of acitretin, the prescriber and patient should discuss the possible effects on the pregnancy.

Prescribing of acitretin should be done only by providers experienced with the diagnosis and treatment of severe psoriasis, including the use of retinoid treatment, and those who understand the risk of teratogenicity.

The Do Your P.A.R.T. (Pregnancy Prevention Actively Required During and After Treatment) program explains teratogenic risks and requirements expected of females of childbearing potential to prevent pregnancies from occurring during use and 3 years following discontinuation; this should be used to educate patients and health care providers. Information for the Do Your P.A.R.T. program is available at www.soriatane.com/doyour-part-Program.html or by calling 1-888-784-3335.

Any pregnancy which occurs during treatment, or at any time for at least 3 years after treatment is discontinued, should be reported to the manufacturer at 1-888-784-3335 or to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Breastfeeding Considerations

Acitretin is present in breast milk.

Information is available from a woman who started acitretin 40 mg per day, 8 months postpartum. The woman discontinued breastfeeding prior to the study. Milk samples were collected prior to the first dose and twice daily for 9 days; maternal serum samples were also collected. Acitretin and its metabolite were detected in breast milk. Total concentrations of acitretin + metabolite remained relatively stable over the study period (30 to 40 ng/mL) showing no diurnal variation. Because acitretin is primarily distributed into milk fat, actual concentrations in breast milk may vary depending upon the lipid and fat content of the milk (Rollman 1990).

Due to the potential for serious adverse reactions in the breastfeeding infant, the manufacturer does not recommend acitretin prior to or during breastfeeding. Current guidelines do not recommend use during lactation due to the potential for cumulative toxicity in a breastfeeding infant (Butler 2014).

Dietary Considerations

Avoid ingestion of additional sources of exogenous vitamin A (in excess of RDA); females of childbearing potential should not ingest ethanol and ethanol-containing products during therapy and for 2 months after the last dose of acitretin.

Monitoring Parameters

Lipid profile and LFTs (baseline and at 4-week intervals for the first 3 months, then every 3 months), CBC and renal function tests (baseline, then every 12 weeks) (AAD/NPF [Menter 2020]); blood glucose in patients with diabetes; evaluate for bone abnormalities (with long-term use).

Pregnancy testing in females of reproductive potential:

• Two negative urine or serum pregnancy tests with a sensitivity of ≥25 mIU per mL before receiving the initial prescription. The first test should be done at the time the decision is made to prescribe acitretin; the second test should be conducted within the first 5 days of the menstrual period immediately prior to the initiation of treatment.

• A pregnancy test with a sensitivity of ≥25 mIU per mL must be repeated monthly during treatment and every 3 months for ≥3 years after discontinuation of acitretin.

Mechanism of Action

Binds to and activates all nuclear subtypes (alpha, beta, and gamma) of retinoid X receptors (RXR) and retinoic acid receptors (RAR) to inhibit the expression of the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6), migration inhibitory factor-related protein-8 (MRP-8), and interferon-gamma (markers of hyperproliferation and abnormal keratinocyte differentiation). Resulting actions are anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative, and keratinocyte differentiation is normalized in the epithelium.

Pharmacokinetics

Etretinate has been detected in serum for up to 3 years following therapy, possibly due to storage in adipose tissue.

Onset of action: May take 3 to 6 months for full response (AAD/NPF [Menter 2020]); improvement may be seen within 8 weeks.

Absorption: Oral: ~72% absorbed when given with food

Protein binding: >99% bound, primarily to albumin

Metabolism: Metabolized to cis-acitretin; both compounds are further metabolized. Concomitant ethanol use leads to the formation of etretinate (active).

Half-life elimination: Acitretin: 49 hours (range: 33 to 96); cis-acitretin: 63 hours (range: 28 to 157); etretinate: 120 days (range: Up to 168 days)

Time to peak: 2 to 5 hours

Excretion: Feces (34% to 54%); urine (16% to 53%)

Pharmacokinetics: Additional Considerations

Altered kidney function: Plasma concentrations are lower in end-stage renal failure.

Older adult: Higher plasma concentrations are seen; however, no changes occur in the half-life.

Pricing: US

Capsules (Acitretin Oral)

10 mg (per each): $31.20

17.5 mg (per each): $38.46

25 mg (per each): $38.46

Disclaimer: A representative AWP (Average Wholesale Price) price or price range is provided as reference price only. A range is provided when more than one manufacturer's AWP price is available and uses the low and high price reported by the manufacturers to determine the range. The pricing data should be used for benchmarking purposes only, and as such should not be used alone to set or adjudicate any prices for reimbursement or purchasing functions or considered to be an exact price for a single product and/or manufacturer. Medi-Span expressly disclaims all warranties of any kind or nature, whether express or implied, and assumes no liability with respect to accuracy of price or price range data published in its solutions. In no event shall Medi-Span be liable for special, indirect, incidental, or consequential damages arising from use of price or price range data. Pricing data is updated monthly.

Brand Names: International
  • Aceret (IN);
  • Acetec (IN);
  • Acicutan (CH, DE);
  • Acitren (PL);
  • Acitrexol (PE);
  • Acitrin (IN);
  • Fang Xi (CN);
  • Keracutan (AT);
  • Neotigason (AE, AR, AT, AU, BB, BE, BF, BG, BH, BJ, BM, BR, BS, BZ, CH, CI, CO, CR, CY, CZ, DK, DO, EC, EE, EG, ES, ET, FI, GB, GH, GM, GN, GR, GT, GY, HK, HN, HR, IE, IL, IS, IT, JM, KE, KR, KW, LK, LR, LT, LU, LV, MA, ML, MR, MT, MU, MW, MX, MY, NE, NG, NI, NL, NO, PA, PE, PH, PL, PT, PY, QA, RU, SA, SC, SD, SE, SG, SI, SK, SL, SN, SR, SV, TH, TN, TR, TT, TW, TZ, UG, UY, VE, ZA, ZM, ZW);
  • Novatin (AU);
  • Novatretin (NZ, SG);
  • Psorin (EG);
  • Regloderm (NL);
  • Soriafree (EG);
  • Soriatane (FR, VN);
  • Soricap (BD);
  • Soritec (BD);
  • Unitrin (EG);
  • Zetin (AU)


For country code abbreviations (show table)
  1. <800> Hazardous Drugs—Handling in Healthcare Settings. United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary (USP 40-NF 35). Rockville, MD: United States Pharmacopeia Convention; 2017:83-102.
  2. Blanchet-Bardon C, Nazzaro V, Rognin C, Geiger JM, Puissant A. Acitretin in the treatment of severe disorders of keratinization. Results of an open study. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1991 Jun;24(6 Pt 1):982-986. [PubMed 1831211]
  3. Butler DC, Heller MM, Murase JE. Safety of dermatologic medications in pregnancy and lactation: Part II. Lactation. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014;70(3):417.e1-e10; quiz 427. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2013.09.009. [PubMed 24528912]
  4. DiSepio D, Malhotra M, Chandraratna R, et al, "Retinoic Acid Receptor–Nuclear Factor–Interleukin 6 Antagonism: A Novel Mechanism of Retinoid-Dependent Inhibition of a Keratinocyte Hyperproliferative Differentiation Marker," J Biol Chem, 1997, 272(41):25555-9. [PubMed 9325272]
  5. Kullavanijaya P, Kulthanan K. Clinical efficacy and side effects of acitretin on the disorders of keratinization: a one-year study. J Dermatol. 1993;20(8):501-506. [PubMed 8245313]
  6. Menter A, Gelfand JM, Connor C, et al. Joint American Academy of Dermatology-National Psoriasis Foundation guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis with systemic nonbiologic therapies. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2020;82(6):1445-1486. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2020.02.044 [PubMed 32119894]
  7. Rollman O, Pihl-Lundin I. Acitretin excretion into human breast milk. Acta Derm Venereol. 1990;70(6):487-490. [PubMed 1981420]
  8. Saurat JH, "Retinoids and Psoriasis: Novel Issues in Retinoid Pharmacology and Implications for Psoriasis Treatment," J Am Acad Dermatol, 1999, 41(3 Pt 2):S2-6. [PubMed 10459139]
  9. Soriatane (acitretin) [prescribing information]. Research Triangle Park, NC: Stiefel Laboratories; October 2017.
  10. Soriatane (acitretin) [product monograph]. Markham, Ontario, Canada: Allergan Inc; June 2020.
  11. US Department of Health and Human Services; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. NIOSH list of antineoplastic and other hazardous drugs in healthcare settings 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/antineoplastic/pdf/hazardous-drugs-list_2016-161.pdf. Updated September 2016. Accessed October 5, 2016.
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