Survey: 80% of 'beni-koji' users with kidney trouble saw doctors this year

An academic society in Japan says its survey shows that 80 percent of the patients who developed kidney problems after taking Kobayashi Pharmaceutical's "beni-koji" supplements first visited doctors in January or later.

The Japanese Society of Nephrology is conducting a survey of member doctors on patients who used the maker's products containing the ingredient "beni-koji," or red yeast rice. The society released an interim report on Monday.

The organization says the doctors reported 47 patients who developed kidney disorders, and that 46 of them consumed "Beni-koji choleste-help" and the other took "Naishi-help plus cholesterol."

The society says about 90 percent of them are aged from 40 to 69, and nearly 70 percent are women.

It says their first visit to a doctor was made in November, and that some 80 percent of them received their first examination in January or later.

The report says more than the half of the patients complained of fatigue, loss of appetite, abnormal urine, or kidney function disorders. It also says nearly 20 percent complained of abdominal problems or weight loss.

About three-quarters of them saw symptoms ease after they stopped taking the products in question. It notes that a quarter received treatment using steroids, and that two patients underwent dialysis. The society says no deaths have so far been reported in its survey.

Society Vice President Isaka Yoshitaka said it is necessary to examine whether there is the causal relationship between kidney disorders and the intake of the products. He noted that kidney functions have improved among many patients after they stopped taking the products. He also said it is important for people using the products to immediately stop taking them and receive a medical examination.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical said that as of Thursday, five people had died after taking the products.