Report: If You Suffer From Sleep Apnea, Don’t Buy A Breathing Device Online

Minnesota researchers followed the sale of CPAP devices on Craigslist and found that although the secondhand options were cheaper, they were also less effective.

Report: If You Suffer From Sleep Apnea, Don’t Buy A Breathing Device Online
Three local researchers are hoping to raise awareness over safety concerns regarding the illegal, but commonly performed sale of used CPAP devices online.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas and the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System found that individuals around the country were regularly selling secondhand sleep apnea treatment devices through Craigslist, despite sales of the devices requiring a medical prescription.
“Our results raise concerns about the safety of these devices and how effective these secondhand devices are,” said the study’s co-author Roxanne Prichard of the University of St. Thomas.
An estimated 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder in which a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during slumber. It can contribute to a variety of medical problems, including diabetes, strokes, depression and even heart failure.
When diagnosed with sleep apnea, doctors fit patients to a CPAP device, or continuous positive airway pressure device, which is attached to the nose or comes in the form of a facemask. The medical exam performed by a doctor includes an overnight stay in a laboratory, this way the amount of air pressure delivered through the CPAP device can be approximated to each patient’s needs.
Because of these highly specific pressure settings, doctors have long discouraged the re-sale of these devices online without a proper medical exam. According to the report published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday, a “secondhand device may deliver a low pressure that is ineffective or a high pressure that is excessive.”
The cost of a new CPAP device typically falls between $600 and $2,000, whereas the report found the average price for a secondhand CPAP device posted on Craigslist was $291. The three researchers caluclated the price after monitoring Craigslist advertisements for secondhand CPAP devices in 18 cities (including Minneapolis) for the month of October in 2014.
“We recognize that for patients with obstructive sleep apnea, but who do not have health insurance to pay for a CPAP, these secondhand devices represent a less expensive alternative to purchasing a new device,” Prichard said.
As a legal and cheaper option than the consumer-to-consumer online sales route, the study suggests patients use the CPAP Assistance Program run by the American Sleep Apnea Association. The program cleans and reprograms CPAP devices to a patient’s prescription, and then ships it for a total cost of $100.
“Similar programs should be developed to improve access to CPAP for the growing number of patients being diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea,” said the study’s co-author Dr. Ken Kunisaki of the University of Minnesota. Programs like the CPAP Assistance Program would be beneficial, Kunisaki added, particularly for those without the resources to afford treatment.
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