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Can You Combine Red Yeast Rice with  Atorvastatin?

When you combine red yeast rice with atorvastatin (or any statin for that matter) you are increasing your risks for statin side effects. Don't do it!
Can You Combine Red Yeast Rice with  Atorvastatin?
Red rice close-up background. Heap wild brown unpolished rice for vegetarians.

Some people believe in what we call the “lottle” principal. If a little is good then a “lottle” must be better. This is especially true when it comes to “natural” remedies. Red yeast rice (RYR) has been promoted as a great way to lower cholesterol levels naturally. It is not surprising that this reader would think adding red yeast rice with atorvastatin would be a terrific combination.

Q. I am currently on 40 mg of atorvastatin daily. I heard that red yeast rice can also help reduce cholesterol.

Can I take them both red yeast rice with atorvastatin (before sleep) or should I take them separately (one in the morning and one at night)?

Do NOT mix Red Yeast Rice with Atorvastatin

A. Since you are already taking a prescribed statin, you should not take red yeast rice with atorvastatin. The combination could increase your risk of statin side effects without providing significant additional benefit.

Readers Report Statin Side Effects:

L.H. got switched from a statin to RYR:

“I experienced muscle pains after taking statins for 2 months. I asked my doctor for other choices. He put me on red yeast rice capsules and my cholesterol levels have dropped to normal range over this past year. I’ve been more careful with diet too. Why wasn’t this healthy alternative mentioned instead of drugs only?”


  1. Red yeast rice contains lovastatin and other statins. Some people are susceptible to side effects from red yeast rice the same way that they are susceptible to drugs like Mevacor (lovastatin) or atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  2. There is virtually no oversight of the manufacture of such dietary supplements. Therefore, it is hard to know if such products are safe and effective. Check out ConsumerLab.com for their report on red yeast rice.

Note that L.H. did not combine red yeast rice with atorvastatin. Some people can tolerate RYR better than a statin, but not everyone is so lucky.

Dallee had statin side effects on RYR:

“I cannot take red yeast — got the same leg pain was from a statin, which is not surprising given the similarities of their composition.

“Since the leg pain results from chemical destruction of leg muscle, statins and red yeast would do definite damage and were discontinued with the approval of my doctors.”

Larry in Raleigh, NC offers a different perspective:

“Red yeast rice is naturally occurring lovastatin, the same compound that’s in Mevacor. You might as well get Mevacor, made in an environment (presumably) with better quality consistency of the dose, unless you really want to take “natural, organic” medicine.”

Jan in France is a fan of RYR:

“In France, red yeast rice is used routinely and everyone knows how good the French health system is. Also, the cost is around 3.25 euros per month’s supply.”

Linda had problems with RYR:

“I have been taking 600 mg of Red Yeast Rice twice daily for about 2 months. I have constant muscle pain in my lower back. It is hard to even get out of bed at night. I see a chiropractor a few times a week. After my labs to check my cholesterol at the end of the month, I will got off of it to see if the RYR is the reason for my pain.”

“I had tried a very low dose of Crestor, but had leg pain, got scared, and stopped it.”

S.K. has an interesting story to share:

“I, too, had astounding results from taking Red Yeast Rice for 3 months to lower my elevated lipids.

“Then, every muscle in my body developed severe, constant aching which subsided within 10 days of discontinuing the supplement. I felt like a brand new person in a pain-free body and am relieved the pain was not permanent and there was no damage.There has to be another way to treat high cholesterol.”

B.J.A was actually told to take atorvastatin and RYR:

“I have been on RYR for about 1 year. My cholesterol was 204 and the doctor wanted me on drugs to lower it. I didn’t want regular drugs so he put me on the RYR. Things were going okay and when I went in for my blood tests they found my readings hadn’t gone down so the doctor put me on atorvastatin.

“Now I have lots of pain in my lower hips and upper back, thighs and also in both shoulders. When the doctor put me on atorvastatin he said to stay on the RYR also.

“I have been on the atorvastatin for less than a week and today I was told to stop it for two weeks to see it the pain improved. I also stopped the RYR (on my own).

“I have always been extremely active and this has really got me down. I was shocked when I brought up this site and saw the problems others have been having. I will now watch my carbs and hopefully my cholesterol will get to a better level. I am hoping for relief in less than two weeks.”

What Else Can You Do?

Most people have come to believe that the only way to reduce the risk of developing heart disease is to lower cholesterol with a statin-type drug. Since red yeast rice contains lovastatin, there is not a tremendous amount of difference.

Statin Side Effects:

  • Muscle pain or spasms (any where in the body, including legs, shoulders, back, arms or neck)
  • Arthritis
  • Blood sugar elevation
  • Memory problems, cognitive dysfunction, confusion, amnesia
  • Nerve pain, peripheral neuropathy, leg cramps
  • Digestive upset, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, flatulence
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Skin reactions, hives
  • Pancreatitis
  • Sexual problems, erectile dysfunction

There are other cholesterol-lowering options, such as an anti-inflammatory diet containing fish, ginger, garlic and olive oil, that would be compatible with atorvastatin.

Exercise is at least as important as cholesterol control in preventing heart attacks. There are a number of ways you can keep your cholesterol down and still stay active. If a statin slows you down so you cannot exercise it seems counterproductive to us.

We are sending you our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health, with tips on anti-inflammatory foods and Laura Effel’s strategy for lowering her LDL cholesterol 44 points in five weeks without a statin.

Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope:

  • Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. C-8
  • P. O. Box 52027
  • Durham, NC 27717-2027.

It can also be downloaded for $2 from the website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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