July 2017

Are Red Yeast Supplements Safer Than Statins?

Red yeast supplements are often used as a "safer" alternative to statin drugs to manage high cholesterol. But many red yeast products contain monacolin K, which is chemically identical to the statin drug lovastatin. In fact, red yeast rice products have been linked to several adverse event reports similar to statin drugs. A new surveillance study reports that red yeast supplements have been associated with serious adverse events including muscle pain (usually in the lower limbs), rhabdomyolysis, and acute hepatitis. Less serious adverse reactions including indigestion, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and skin reactions such as hives and reddening have also been reported. In most cases, the red yeast supplement associated with these reactions contained 3 mg of monacolin K. 

Tell your patients who are considering taking red yeast supplements as an alternative to statin drugs that these supplements work for lowering cholesterol because they often contain statins and also cause many of the same side effects.

To learn more about red yeast and potential adverse reactions associated with these supplements, visit our red yeast monograph.

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