Statin Alternative Tested

June 22, 2009

from The Boston Globe

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs don’t work for everyone because some people suffer troubling side effects, including muscle pain known as myalgia. Scientists tested a dietary supplement also known to reduce cholesterol to see whether patients who had to stop taking statins could tolerate the alternative treatment.

Dr. David J. Becker of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and his colleagues recruited 62 patients at a suburban cardiology practice who had high cholesterol but stopped statin therapy because of muscle pain. Half were randomly assigned to receive capsules containing 1,800 milligrams of red yeast rice twice a day for 24 weeks. The others were given similar capsules with no active ingredients. Both groups also participated in a lifestyle change program that emphasized eating a Mediterranean diet, exercising more, and practicing relaxation techniques.

Their blood was tested after three months and again after six months, when the mean levels of low-density lipid – or “bad’’ – cholesterol had fallen from 163 to 128 milligrams per deciliter in the people taking the red yeast supplement, significantly more than the 14-milligram drop in the placebo group. Depending on the dose, statins can reduce LDL cholesterol by 20 to 45 percent, according to the American Heart Association. Total cholesterol also improved more in the red yeast rice group.

“Our approach may provide a therapeutic lipid-lowering option for the large cohort of patients with a history of statin-associated myalgias,” the authors wrote.


Red yeast rice supplements could be an option for people with high cholesterol who cannot tolerate statin drugs.


This was a small study. Also, red yeast supplements are not approved as drugs, so their quality and strength may vary.

What’s Next

“A larger, multicenter trial with longer follow-up is needed to determine whether red yeast rice offers a safe and effective solution for this unmet medical need and to evaluate its effects on cardiovascular outcomes,’’ the authors wrote.

Where to Find It

Annals of Internal Medicine, June 16

*The views expressed here in no way represent the views or policies of New Health Corp, the FDA, or any other official agency.