Health concerns in Japan: Pharmaceutical company reports two more supplement-related deaths | Health News

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical has recalled a cholesterol-lowering supplement containing red yeast rice due to a possible link to kidney disease.

The Japanese pharmaceutical company whose dietary supplements are at the center of growing health concerns has reported two more deaths possibly linked to the cholesterol-lowering drug.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical’s Thursday announcement brings the total number of deaths under investigation by the company and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to four, with more than 100 people hospitalized.

“We need to clarify the cause,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told parliament Thursday. [of the illnesses] We will consider various measures as necessary. ”

This was in response to opposition politicians calling for a review of the security framework that was relaxed under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Last week, Mr. Kobayashi recalled three of his company’s supplements, including Red Yeast Choleste Help, after about 106 customers were hospitalized with kidney problems.

Commercially available products contain an ingredient called red yeast rice, which is said to have the effect of lowering bad cholesterol.

The company announced on Thursday that it was “confirming the facts and causal relationship” regarding the two additional deaths, and “we have decided to publish the report from the perspective of prompt information disclosure.”

“Red yeast rice” contains red mold, which is also used as a food coloring agent.

public interest

According to Japan’s Kyodo News, government spokesperson Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a press conference that the government was taking “quick and serious action” against the pharmaceutical company to investigate the cause, and that “the public’s concerns are widespread.” He said that he requested the disclosure of relevant information.

The Osaka-based pharmaceutical company has not yet determined the specific cause, but said the product may contain “ingredients that were not intended to be included.”

The fermentation process can produce a toxin called citrinin, which can damage the kidneys, but the company said its analysis did not detect any citrinin.

Medical research describes red yeast rice as an alternative to statins for lowering high cholesterol, but also warns of the risk of organ damage depending on its chemical composition.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, in addition to supplements, more than 40 products from other companies containing red yeast rice, including miso, crackers, and vinegar dressing, were recalled.

Mr. Hayashi said that in response to the suspension of online sales of products subject to voluntary recalls by pharmaceutical companies in China and the suspension of product distribution in Taiwan, Japan is sharing information with the World Health Organization and relevant countries. He said there was.

The company supplies red yeast rice to about 50 companies in Japan and two companies in Taiwan.

Kobayashi executives said last week that the company first received complaints about the kidney disease in January.

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