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By Steve Bratman, MD
A recently marketed product called "new" Cholestin purportedly contains policosanol, but actually contains a related product manufactured from beeswax. (The original Cholestin contained red yeast rice as its active ingredient, a natural product that contains lovastatin and related statins [see Alternative Therapies in Women’s Health, July 2001, pp. 53-55]. When court action forced Pharmanex, the manufacturers of Cholestin, to desist marketing the original product, the company substituted a beeswax extract.)
Although the label on "new" Cholestin states that it contains "policosanol," the accuracy of this statement has been challenged by Rosa Mas.1 Although beeswax does contain higher aliphatic alcohols, the proportions of these ingredients vary substantially from those in sugar cane. In beeswax, triacontanol rather than octacosanol is the primary constituent, and the proportions of other constituents differ as well.
Cuban researchers have investigated certain beeswax extracts extensively and report that while they possess cytoprotective and anti-inflammatory properties, they lack hypolipidemic action.2-19 Conversely, they state that sugar cane policosanol lacks cytoprotective and anti-inflammatory properties.
In response to this criticism, Pharmanex stated that their beeswax product is manufactured differently from the extract studied in Cuba, and is delivered in a different galenic formulation. Furthermore, they cite unpublished animal trials and two small open-label human trials in suggesting that their product does have hypolipidemic effects in moderately hyperlipidemic individuals. Pharmanex states that it has begun a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on the product and expects to report results in March 2002.
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19. Alcocer L, et al. A comparative study of policosanol versus acipimox in patients with type II hypercholesterolemia. Int J Tissue React 1999;21:85-92.