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FDA Warns Consumers to Avoid Red Yeast Rice Products Promoted on Internet as Treatments for High Cholesterol


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to buy or eat three red yeast rice products promoted and sold on Web sites. The products may contain an unauthorized drug that could be harmful to health. The products are promoted as dietary supplements for treating high cholesterol.

The potentially harmful products are: Red Yeast Rice and Red Yeast Rice/Policosonal Complex, sold by Swanson Healthcare Products, Inc. and manufactured by Natures Value Inc. and Kabco Inc., respectively; and Cholestrix, sold by Sunburst Biorganics. FDA testing revealed the products contain lovastatin, the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Mevacor, a prescription drug approved for marketing in the United States as a treatment for high cholesterol.

This risk is even more serious because consumers may not know the side effects associated with lovastatin and the fact that it can adversely interact with other medications" said Steven Galson, M.D., M.P.H., director of FDAs Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

These red yeast rice products are a threat to health because the possibility exists that lovastatin can cause severe muscle problems leading to kidney impairment. This risk is greater in patients who take higher doses of lovastatin or who take lovastatin and other medicines that increase the risk of muscle adverse reactions. These medicines include the antidepressant nefazodone, certain antibiotics, drugs used to treat fungal infections and HIV infections, and other cholesterol-lowering medications.

FDA has issued warning letters advising Swanson and Sunburst Biorganics to stop promoting and selling the products. Companies that do not resolve violations in FDA warning letters risk enforcement actions, such as an injunction against continuing violations and a seizure of illegal products.

The FDA warning letters state that the products Red Yeast Rice, Red Yeast Rice/Policosonal Complex, and Cholestrix, sold on the firms websites, are unapproved new drugs that are marketed in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The warning letters are available on FDAs Web site:

FDA advises consumers who use any red yeast rice product to consult their health care provider if they experience problems that may be due to the product.

Report adverse events related to these products to MedWatch, the FDAs voluntary reporting program:; 800-332-1088; Fax: 800-332-0178; and MedWatch, Food and Drug Administration, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD, 20852-9787.


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