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Generic Name:

acitretin, Oral capsule

All Brands

  • Soriatane
SECTION 1 of 5

Highlights for acitretin

Oral capsule
1

Acitretin is used to treat severe psoriasis.

2

This drug comes in a capsule you take by mouth.

3

Acitretin is available as the brand-name drug Soriatane. It’s also available as a generic drug.

4

The more common side effects of this drug include chapped lips, peeling skin, itchiness, hair loss, and runny or dry nose.

5

In some cases, acitretin can cause serious side effects. These include liver problems, vision problems, heart attack, or stroke. This drug can also cause severe birth defects.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

FDA warning

This drug has a black box warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Severe birth defects warning. You shouldn’t use this drug if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. You also shouldn’t become pregnant for at least 3 years after taking this drug. Acitretin can cause severe birth defects. If you’re a woman of childbearing age, you must use effective birth control while you’re on this medication. Your doctor will likely only give you acitretin if other drugs don’t work for your psoriasis or if you cannot use other psoriasis drugs.

If you’re a female who can become pregnant and you take this drug, you’ll also need to participate in the Do Your P.A.R.T. program. This stands for the Pregnancy Prevention Actively Required During and After Treatment. This program helps educate you and your doctor about the serious risks that can happen when you’re taking this drug. 

Liver problems warning. This drug can cause liver problems. These problems include abnormal liver function test results and hepatitis (inflammation of your liver). Your doctor should do blood tests to check your liver function before and during your treatment with this drug. 

Vision problems

This drug can decrease your vision in the dark. This condition is called night blindness and can start suddenly. You should be very careful when driving at night. This problem usually goes away when you stop taking this drug.

Avoid giving blood

You shouldn’t donate blood while you’re taking this drug and for at least 3 years after you stop taking it. The acitretin in your blood can harm an unborn baby if your blood is given to a pregnant woman.

Depression

This drug may cause depression or aggressive behavior. This condition may cause you to want to harm yourself. Call your doctor right away if you feel this way. Your doctor may want you to stop taking this medication.

What is acitretin?

Acitretin is a prescription drug. It’s available as an oral capsule.

Acitretin is available as a brand-name drug called Soriatane. It’s also available as a generic drug.

Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases, they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand-name version.

Why it's used

Acitretin is used to treat severe forms of psoriasis. Psoriasis is a skin disease. It causes cells in the outer layer of your skin to grow faster than normal and to pile up on your skin’s surface. This growth inflames your skin. You’ll have red, thickened areas of skin, often with silvery scales.

How it works

Acitretin belongs to a class of drugs called retinoids. Retinoids are related to retinol (vitamin A). A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

More Details

How it works

Acitretin belongs to a class of drugs called retinoids. Retinoids are related to retinol (vitamin A). A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

Acitretin works by binding to receptors in your body. These receptors help normalize how fast your skin cells grow. This treats your psoriasis. 

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SECTION 2 of 5

acitretin Side Effects

Oral capsule

More Common Side Effects

The more common side effects of acitretin can include:

  • chapped lips

  • peeling fingertips, palms, and soles of your feet

  • itching

  • scaly skin all over your body

  • weak nails

  • sticky or fragile (weak) skin

  • runny or dry nose

  • nosebleeds

  • dry mouth

  • joint pain

  • tight muscles

  • hair loss

  • dry eyes

  • high cholesterol (fats in your blood)

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious Side Effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 9-1-1 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Liver problems. Symptoms may include:

    • yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes
    • nausea and vomiting
    • loss of appetite
    • dark-colored urine
  • Heart attack. Symptoms can include:

    • chest pain
    • shortness of breath
    • dizziness
    • nausea
  • Stroke. Symptoms can include:

    • weakness in one part or side of your body
    • trouble speaking
  • Serious skin problems. Symptoms can include:

    • inflamed (red and swollen) skin
    • peeling skin
    • itchy and painful skin
  • Vision problems. Symptoms can include:

    • night blindness (trouble seeing in the dark)
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Symptoms can include:

    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • upper stomach pain
    • tenderness when touching your stomach
  • Blood vessel problems. Symptoms can include:

    • sudden swelling in one part of your body or all over your body
    • weight gain
    • fever
    • lightheadedness or feeling faint
    • muscle aches
  • High pressure in your brain. Symptoms can include:

    • bad headache
    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • blurred vision
  • Depression. Symptoms can include:

    • depressed mood
    • aggressive feelings
    • suicidal thoughts (thoughts of ending your own life)
  • Abnormal changes to your bones or muscles. Symptoms can include:

    • aches or pains in your bones, joints, muscles, or back
    • trouble moving your arms or legs
    • loss of feeling in your hands or feet
  • High blood sugar levels. Symptoms can include:

    • urinating more often than normal
    • intense thirst
    • intense hunger
Pharmacist's Advice
Clinical Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy

Acitretin can cause drowsiness.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
SECTION 3 of 5

acitretin May Interact with Other Medications

Oral capsule

Acitretin can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.

To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Alcohol Interaction

Women of childbearing age must avoid drinks, foods, medications, and over-the-counter products that contain alcohol while taking this drug. Women shouldn’t become pregnant during treatment and for at least 3 years after stopping this drug. This is because acitretin can cause severe birth defects. If you swallow any form of alcohol during treatment and for 2 months after stopping acitretin, the risk of birth defects could last longer than 3 years.

Medications that might interact with this drug

Drugs you should not use with acitretin

Do not take these drugs with acitretin. Doing so can cause dangerous effects in the body. Examples of these drugs include:

  • Tetracycline antibiotics. Taking these drugs with acitretin can increase your risk of high pressure in your brain.
  • Methotrexate. Taking these drugs together can increase your risk of liver problems.
  • Progestin-only birth control pills (minipills). Acitretin may make minipills less effective. This could increase your chance of pregnancy. You shouldn’t become pregnant while taking acitretin. It isn’t known if other forms of progestin-only birth control, such as the implant or injection, will be as effective if you’re taking acitretin. Your doctor may switch you from the minipill to another form of birth control. 

Interactions that increase your risk of side effects
  • Side effects from other drugs: Taking acitretin with certain medications raises your risk of side effects from these drugs. Examples of these drugs include: 
    • Phenytoin. Taking these drugs with acitretin may cause slurred speech, confusion, and coordination or balance problems.
    • Vitamin A supplements and other oral retinoids. Taking these drugs with acitretin may cause nausea, vomiting, loss of balance, and blurry vision.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.
Acitretin warnings
liver disease
People with severe liver disease

This drug can cause liver problems. These problems include abnormal liver function test results and hepatitis (inflammation of your liver). If you already have liver issues, this drug may make your condition worse. You shouldn’t use this medication if you have severe liver problems.

kidney disease
People with severe kidney disease

If you have kidney problems or a history of kidney disease, you may not be able to clear this drug from your body. This may increase the levels of acitretin in your body and cause more side effects. Your doctor may tell you to stop taking this drug if you have severe kidney disease.

high cholesterol or triglycerides
People with high cholesterol or triglycerides

You shouldn’t take this drug if you have high cholesterol (the fats in your blood). This drug can increase your cholesterol levels even more. Cholesterol levels that are too high can cause blood vessel blockages. Blocked blood vessels may lead to a heart attack, stroke, or a blood clot. If you have a family history of high cholesterol or triglycerides, your risk may be higher. Your doctor will monitor your cholesterol levels closely while you’re taking this drug.

diabetes
People with diabetes or high blood sugar

If you have diabetes or high blood sugar levels or a family history of these conditions, you may have a higher risk of developing high cholesterol (fats in your blood) and triglyceride levels while taking this drug. Your doctor may monitor your cholesterol levels closely.

obese
People who are obese

If you’re obese or have a family history of obesity, you may have a higher risk of developing high cholesterol (fats in your blood) and triglyceride levels while taking this drug. Your doctor will monitor your cholesterol levels closely.

pregnant woman
Pregnant women

Acitretin is a category X pregnancy drug. That means two things: 

  1. Category X drugs should never be used during pregnancy.
  2. Women of childbearing age should use reliable birth control while taking this drug.

You shouldn’t become pregnant during your treatment and for at least 3 years after you stop taking this drug. Acitretin can cause severe birth defects.

If you’re a female who can become pregnant and you take this drug, you’ll also need to participate in the Do Your P.A.R.T. program. This stands for the Pregnancy Prevention Actively Required During and After Treatment. This program helps educate you and your doctor about the serious risks that can happen when you’re taking this drug. 

breastfeeding
Women who are breast-feeding

Acitretin can pass into breast milk and may cause side effects in a child who is breastfed.

Talk to your doctor if you breastfeed your child. You may need to decide whether to stop breastfeeding or stop taking this medication.

seniors
For seniors

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects.

children
For children

This medication hasn’t been studied in children. It shouldn’t be used in people younger than 18 years.

call the doctor
When to call the doctor

Call your doctor if you become pregnant while you’re taking this drug.

Call your doctor if your psoriasis isn’t getting better while you’re taking this medication. It may take 2–3 months to see the full benefits of this drug. 

allergies
Allergies

Acitretin can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include: 

  • trouble breathing
  • hives
  • itching
  • swelling of your face, mouth, or tongue 

If you have an allergic reaction, call your doctor or local poison control center right away. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it or to other retinoids. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).

SECTION 4 of 5

How to Take acitretin (Dosage)

Oral capsule

All possible dosages and drug forms may not be included here. Your dosage, drug form, and how often you take the drug will depend on: 

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What are you taking this medication for?

Severe psoriasis

Generic: acitretin

Form: Oral capsule
Strengths: 10 mg, 17.5 mg, 22.5 mg, 25 mg

Brand: Soriatane

Form: Oral capsule
Strengths: 10 mg, 17.5 mg, 25 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)
  • Typical starting dose: 25–50 mg taken once per day. You’ll take it with your largest meal of the day.
  • Dose changes: Your doctor may increase or decrease your dose depending on how you respond to this drug. 
Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)

This medication hasn’t been studied in children. It shouldn’t be used in people younger than 18 years.

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects.

Your doctor may start you on a lowered dose or a different dosing schedule. This can help keep levels of this drug from building up too much in your body.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Clinical Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy

Acitretin comes with serious risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule

Your medication may not work as well or may stop working completely. For this drug to work well, a certain amount needs to be in your body at all times.

If you take too much

You could have dangerous levels of the drug in your body. Symptoms of an overdose of this drug can include:

  • headache
  • vertigo (feeling like you’re spinning)

All females who can become pregnant must take a pregnancy test if they take too much of this drug.

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

What to do if you miss a dose

If you miss a dose, take your next dose at its normal time. Do not double the next dose.

How to tell if the drug is working

You’ll be able to tell this drug is working if your psoriasis symptoms start to get better. This drug may not work right away. You may have to wait 2–3 months to see the full benefit of this medication. Your psoriasis symptoms may even temporarily get worse when you first start treatment.

Acitretin is used for long-term treatment.

Important considerations for taking acitretin
take with food
Take acitretin with food. You should take it with your largest meal of the day
storage
Store this drug carefully
See Details
medication is not refillable
A prescription for this medication is not refillable
See Details
luggage
Travel
See Details
clinical monitoring
Clinical monitoring
See Details
sun
Sun sensitivity
See Details
not usually stocked
Not every pharmacy stocks this drug. When filling your prescription, be sure to call ahead
prior authorization needed
Insurance
See Details

Store this drug carefully

  • Store acitretin at room temperature. Keep it between 59°F and 77°F (15°C and 25°C).
  • Keep this drug away from light.
  • Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.

A prescription for this medication is not refillable

You or your pharmacy will have to contact your doctor for a new prescription if you need to refill this medication.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry your medication with you. When flying, never put it into a checked bag. Keep it in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport x-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
  • You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled box with you.
  • Don’t put this medication in your car’s glove compartment or leave it in the car. Be sure to avoid doing this when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Clinical monitoring

You and your doctor should monitor certain health issues. This can help make sure you stay safe while you take this drug. These issues include:

  • Blood sugar levels. Your doctor may monitor your blood glucose (sugar) levels. This drug may increase your blood sugar level. You’ll need to test your blood sugar level closely if you have diabetes.
  • Cholesterol levels (fats) in your blood. Your doctor may check your cholesterol levels every week or every other week when you first start treatment with this drug.
  • Liver function. Your doctor will do a blood test to check your liver function before you start this drug. Your doctor will continue to check your liver function every week or two until your results are stable.
  • Pregnancy. If you’re a woman of childbearing age, you will need to take a pregnancy test each month during your treatment with this drug. You’ll need to take a pregnancy test once every 3 months for the first 3 years after you stop taking this medication. 

Sun sensitivity

This drug can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. This increases your risk of sunburn. Stay out of the sun if you can. If you must be in the sun, wear protective clothing and sunscreen.

Insurance

Many insurance companies require a prior authorization for this drug. This means your doctor will need to get approval from your insurance company before your insurance company will pay for the prescription.

Are there any alternatives?

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk to your doctor about other drug options that may work for you.

SECTION 5 of 5

How Much Does acitretin Cost?

Oral capsule

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Lowest price for acitretin

Walgreens $442.71
Safeway $665.45
Target (CVS) $676.73
These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for acitretin on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

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These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for acitretin on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on January 14, 2016

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
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