Japanese drugmaker probing 76 deaths possibly linked to 'beni-koji' supplement

It has been found that Japanese drugmaker Kobayashi Pharmaceutical is investigating a possible link between 76 deaths and its supplement containing a "beni-koji" malted rice ingredient.

There have been numerous reports across Japan that people who took the firm's supplement developed kidney disease and other health problems.

The drugmaker recently reported to the health ministry that it had received 170 inquiries from bereaved families.

It said it is probing 76 of these cases to determine causality by checking whether the individuals took the supplement and reviewing their medical diagnoses.

The drugmaker has explained that among the previously disclosed five deaths, one case did not involve the intake of the supplement.

The ministry has instructed Kobayashi Pharma on the investigation process, including inquiries to medical institutions and analysis, and will manage the progress going forward.

Health minister Takemi Keizo pointed out that Kobayashi Pharma reported on the death cases only after the ministry had asked it to provide information.

Takemi stressed that the situation is deeply regrettable, and added that the ministry will become directly involved because it can no longer leave the issue solely to the company.