Diachrome, a patented formulation of chromium picolinate and biotin, is marketed as a daily supplement taken in conjunction with conventional medications to treat diabetes.
In clinical studies Diachrome has been shown to improve glycemic control in patients in whom it is poor - that is, with hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) levels of 10 percent or more. HbA1C is the marker of glycemic control, and reducing it to a normal range of below seven percent is believed to lower the risk of a patient developing complications, such as heart disease, kidney failure or amputations.
The overall cost of diabetes in the US - including medical expenditures and lost productivity - was estimated to be $132 billion in 2002. During the preceding five years the annual per capita cost of diabetes rose 30 percent.
The analysis, published in the August issue of Disease Management, holds that including Diachrome as part of standard diabetes care could slice an additional $49 billion off lifetime care costs for newly diagnosed patients each year, in addition to the three-year cost savings of up to $52.9 billion for those already diagnosed.
The American Diabetes Association estimates that 18.2 million Americans (6.3 percent of the population) have the disease, of which 5.2 million are undiagnosed.
Type-2 diabetes is more prevalent among lower socio-economic groups due to poor nutrition and eating habits, meaning that co-pay for diabetes care can pose a problem for some sufferers.
"Affordable complementary therapies, such as Diachrome, could make a substantial contribution to lessening the economic burden of diabetes for patients and payers," said analyst David Nash, professor and chairman of the Department of Health Policy at Thomas Jefferson University.
In partnership with disease management firm XL Health, Nutrition 21 has embarked on a health outcomes initiative using Diachrome.
The initiative, the early data from which has been positive, is investigating the effects of Diachrome on glycated hemoglobin, fasting plasma glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes. It involves 453 patients across multiple centers.
Nutrition 21 plans to start rolling out Diachrome to patients and physicians in Texas early next year. Later this month it plans to convene an expert panel to plan expansion into other disease management companies.
Last week it was announced that the FDA has approved a qualified health claim for chromium picolinate for insulin resistance and possibly type 2 diabetes:
"One small study suggests that chromium picolinate may reduce the risk of insulin resistance, and therefore possibly may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. FDA concludes, however, that the existence of such a relationship between chromium picolinate and either insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes is highly uncertain."