Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co. said Thursday that it has confirmed two more deaths linked to its red yeast rice dietary supplements, with the burgeoning health scandal leading to widespread voluntary recalls.

The products had already been implicated in two other deaths from kidney-related conditions and over 100 hospitalizations, according to the health ministry, which conducted a hearing with the Osaka-based company.

"We will make a company-wide, all-out effort to prevent the spread of further damage and investigate the cause" of the reported illnesses, Akihiro Kobayashi, the company's president, told a regular general shareholders' meeting held behind doors in Osaka, according to a public relations official.

Photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter on March 28, 2024, shows the building that houses Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co.'s headquarters in the western Japan city of Osaka. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a Diet committee, "We need to make clear the cause (of the illnesses) and consider various responses if necessary."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a press conference that the government has urged Kobayashi Pharmaceutical to take "swift and serious action toward determining the cause" and disclose relevant information as "concern among the public is spreading."

Hayashi also said that Japan is sharing information with the World Health Organization and relevant countries over the issue after online sales of products subject to the drugmaker's voluntary recalls were suspended in China, while products have also been removed from circulation in Taiwan.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical said last Friday it had received reports of illness linked to its products and voluntarily recalled five of them, including about 300,000 packages of "beni-koji choleste help" supplements.

After receiving many consultations from people reporting ill health following taking the pills, which are supposed to help lower cholesterol, the company on Tuesday disclosed the first confirmed case of someone dying after ingesting them. A second death was reported to the ministry at the hearing the same day.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said most of the reports of people experiencing ill health after taking the supplements related to those made since September last year.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical has not disclosed the age, sex or address of anyone who has died. It suspects an unknown substance derived from molds may have caused the problems but is unable to ascertain a specific cause.

A Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co. shareholder (R) speaks to reporters ahead of the company's annual shareholders' meeting in the western Japan city of Osaka on March 28, 2024. The company said it has confirmed two more deaths linked to the consumption of its red yeast rice dietary supplements which had already been implicated in two other deaths from kidney-related conditions and over 100 hospitalizations. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

A shareholder in his 70s voiced his anger that it took the company two months to go public about the issue after it was notified about the health problems in January, saying its actions came too "late."

The man added that the company's managerial responsibility has come "under scrutiny."

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical has requested all companies that have received supplies of its red yeast rice voluntarily recall any products containing the ingredient, affecting a wide range of food items including sake, confectioneries, bread and miso. The ingredient is used for various purposes, including for coloring and flavoring.

















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