A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine studied this compound. The investigators took patients with high cholesterol levels and intolerant of a statin (mostly because of the developement of muscle cramps) and randomized them to receive either 1800mg of Red Yeast Rice Extract twice a day or placebo. All patients also were enrolled in a therapeutic lifestyle-change program that included eating a Mediterranean-based diet, an exercise program, and relaxation techniques.
The patients who received Red Yeast Rice Extract had much lower cholesterol levels and the Red Rice Yest Extract was well tolerated.
This seems like it may become a good alternative for patients with high cholesterol levels but intolerant of statins.
Remember, statins remain one of the most powerful medication we have to reduce primary or secondary cardiovascular events. We also know that some drugs (like ezitimide) may lower the cholestrol level, but might not prevent events. We are actively trying to figure out, "Is how we low the cholesterol just as important as how low the number gets"
Another problem with all non-FDA regulated substances is the lack of consistency of just how much medication is contained in each pill - from one pill to another and from more manufacturer to another.
For now, statins remain the best "proven" drug to treat high cholesterol and reduce events.
I will consider using Red Yeast Rice Extract in my patients intolerant of other proven cholesterol lowering medications.
I anxiously await an outcomes study regarding the efficacy of Red Yeast Rice Extract in preventing events.