FDA Warning: Some red yeast rice products may contain an unauthorized drug called lovastatin (Altoprev, Mevacor).17,18 Lovastatin is a prescription medicine used to treat high cholesterol. Because of the risk of potential health problems, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned red yeast products that contain lovastatin. These include: Red Yeast Rice and Red Yeast Rice/Policosonal Complex (sold by Swanson Healthcare Products) and Cholestrix (sold by Sunburst Biorganics). For more information, read the FDA's warning.

Red yeast rice is a traditional Chinese substance made by fermenting a type of yeast called Monascus purpureus over rice. Various formulations of this product have been used in China since at least 800 AD as a food and also as a medicinal substance within the context of Traditional Chinese Herbal medicine. This ancient preparation contains naturally occurring substances similar (and, in some cases, identical) to cholesterol-lowering prescription drugs in the “statin” family.