It can be irritating to toss and turn around all night trying to get a good night’s sleep – but what if your lack of sleep threatens your life?
About 25 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder that often goes undiagnosed. Sleep apnea is caused by a failure of the body to regulate breathing during sleep, not just a natural inability to get a good night’s sleep.
There are two types of Sleep apnea. The first, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the upper airways become repeatedly blocked during sleep, restricting or even stopping airflow. Central sleep apnea occurs in the brain when it doesn’t send signals to the body to breathe. Both types can lead to irregular breathing that stops and starts again hundreds or even thousands of times during the night, which can be detrimental to almost any part of your health.
A doctor who suspects sleep apnea will examine the patient for signs and symptoms, and likely order a sleep test at home to monitor the respiratory rate for a night or two. If sleep apnea is diagnosed, it is very treatable. Most patients find relief from using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which regulates their breathing at night, and usually rely on the machines for the rest of their lives.
But what happens if a CPAP machine fails?
Millions of Philips CPAP machines recalled
In June this year, Philips Respironics announced a recall of millions of CPAP and other ventilators after receiving thousands of consumer complaints. Some devices malfunctioned slightly while others appeared to have made sleep apnea worse. One of the features of a CPAP machine is a noise-dampening polyurethane foam (PE-PUR) that was broken down inside the machine and absorbed by the user far too quickly. Some patients even inhaled toxic fumes that can cause cancer, asthma, chemical poisoning, and liver damage.
Over 100 federal lawsuits have been filed against Philips since the recall began. They have since been consolidated into cross-district litigation (MDL) – ie you go through preliminary proceedings and investigations as a group, which speeds up individual proceedings.
What can sleep apnea do for my health?
A person’s physique or pre-existing medical conditions can increase their risk of sleep apnea. Obesity, smoking and other unhealthy lifestyle factors can all contribute – over 20% of overweight people Struggle with the disorder.
Genetic or other health problems that can make someone more prone to sleep apnea include large tonsils (which take up more airway space), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hypothyroidism, kidney or heart failure, stroke, and more.
Patients with sleep apnea that is left untreated or undiagnosed are at risk for a variety of alarming health problems including, but not limited to:
- High blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems
- Extreme tiredness
- Glaucoma and diabetes
- Chronic kidney disease
- Pregnancy or surgical complications
- Cognitive or behavioral disorders
A CPAP machine or other breathing aid device is currently the most common and effective treatment for sleep apnea along with recommended lifestyle changes. Your doctor will work with you to find the most practical and convenient device for you, which may be in the form of a machine, full or partial head, or mouthpiece or implant. Patients who enjoy life with these devices will typically find sleep apnea very manageable.
What happens if my CPAP machine is on the callback list?
If you’re using a Philips branded CPAP machine or other ventilator, there’s a good chance your model has been recalled – there are more than three million affected devices in the US. And most insurance providers, including Medicare, won’t issue you a new unit unless your current one is at least five years old.
Therefore, patients should consult their doctor to decide whether to forego the device or to use it, despite the risks of inhaling the foam or its vapors. This decision will depend on your individual situation, but neither option is likely to be good for you. And being forced to choose between getting adequate sleep and other health complications is unacceptable. You can contact Philips or file a report with the FDA MedWatch program, but this is where your power over your health ends – unless you choose to take legal action.
You have several options, including filing or participating in an existing class action or filing a product liability lawsuit. Keep in mind that you are likely only eligible for this if you have been using the affected device for six months or more and have been diagnosed with respiratory disease or cancer. Even if, after consulting your doctor, you no longer use your CPAP machine, you can file a lawsuit.
If you decide to take legal action, be sure to choose an attorney who has experience handling defective product cases. A lawyer familiar with Philips CPAP recall can guide you through the legal process and help determine the best possible options for filing a claim.