Recalls & Warnings
ConsumerLab.com is keeping you informed with current product recalls and warnings.
Posted August 9, 2007
FDA Warning on Red Yeast Rice Products
The potentially harmful products are: Red Yeast Rice and Red Yeast Rice/Policosonal Complex, sold by Swanson Healthcare Products, Inc. and manufactured by Nature’s 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 FDA's 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 firm’s websites, are unapproved new drugs that are marketed in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The warning letters are available on FDA’s Web site: www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/wlcfm/recentfiles.cfm.
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.
ConsumerLab.com's Product Review of Cholesterol-Lowering Supplements discusses red yeast rice along with other supplement ingredients that may lower cholesterol. Red yeast rice supplements face regulatory difficulty because, by nature, they contain lovastatin and related compounds, classifying them as drugs and not supplements. However, these compounds are likely the basis for the the efficacy of red yeast rice -- as well as a risk for causing potential muscle damage like prescription statin drugs. To avoid regulatory action, many red yeast rice products are not marketed as cholesterol-lowerers and do not mention their lovastatin (or monocolin-K) content. This leaves consumers and healthcare providers unable to compare the strengths of such products.