“Sleep Isn’t a Luxury”: A Documentary on the Philips CPAP Recall

The recall of Philips Respironics DreamStation breathing machines in 2021 sent shockwaves through millions of households worldwide, and kicked off a class action lawsuit we blogged here. What can get missed with something like this, though, is the tangible human cost involved. To better illustrate that cost, a filmmaker made a short documentary looking at the recall through the eyes of a doctor and three patients directly impacted.

The documentary is equal parts heartbreaking and infuriating. Observations:

  • The damage inflicted by the defective machines is permanent, but for patients with preexisting conditions, it’s devastating. Mark Edwards had severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and sarcoidosis prior to going on the CPAP; according to three specialists he visited, the Philips machine “destroyed the walls of his lungs.”
  • Dr. Radhika S. Breaden, the sleep doctor profiled in the film, shared her anger over the scandal. In part she’s angry for her patients who are suffering, but she openly speaks of the trust her patients have lost in her. “When I prescribed CPAP, I thought I was prescribing air. My name is on those CPAP machine prescriptions, and there was nothing I was ever given to say to patients, ‘Yes, you’re getting air, but these are the risks.”
  • When it comes to getting a replacement machine – which Philips promised to provide – the patients are stuck in a Kafkaesque labyrinth of corporate idiocy. They go online and submit requests, they’re told their case file isn’t found in Philips’s systems, calling gets them nowhere. Some of these patients say they have been waiting literally years for their replacement machine; others say their replacement machine doesn’t work. Others end up using old machines they have on hand that – ta-da! – also have recall notices.

What’s most unfortunate is how many people suffering from sleep apnea labor under the belief that they have no other alternative besides the CPAP. “If your two choices are not breathing at night and getting terrible sleep and falling asleep talking to a patient in the afternoon or driving home at 5 o’clock at night, or risking toxic chemical exposure, it’s an impossible choice.”

No. These are not your only choices. Contact us today to learn more about our CPAP-free treatment options.

Source: How Patients and Doctors Are Navigating the Fallout of the Massive Recall of Philips Breathing Machines (ProPublica)

While the CPAP is a popular treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, it has plenty of drawbacks. Unfortunately, a lot of people suffering from sleep apnea learned the hard way that the CPAP can backfire rather badly.

Philips Respironics, a leading manufacturer of CPAP machines, settled a class action lawsuit over flaws in their machines’ designs. Engineers had installed foam in the machines to help them run quieter and reduce vibration. Which was fine, until that foam started flaking off and – along with toxic gases – was blown into the users’ mouths and lungs. The results, as you can probably imagine, were terrible for a number of CPAP users: the flaking foam has been linked to a number of health issues, including respiratory illnesses, lung cancer and even death. (The FDA has had reports of 385 deaths linked to the machines since April 2021.)

This isn’t a recent issue, either. In June 2021, the FDA issued a recall on Philips machines manufactured since 2009 over concerns that the deteriorating foam could pose a threat to users’ health. This put people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea in a terrible dilemma, as many of them didn’t see any real alternative to a CPAP to get a good night’s sleep.

This is just one reason among many that Dr. Krish doesn’t prescribe the CPAP for her sleep apnea patients. If you’re suffering from sleep apnea and in need of an alternative to the CPAP to get back having a good night’s sleep, contact us today for an at-home sleep study.

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