Here at Valor 4 Vet, we can often be critical of the VA and anyone who has dealt with trying to get a disability claim approved understands why. That being said, we certainly don’t want it to come across that we do not believe the VA conducts vital and life saving work. Case in point, the VA is currently spreading the urgent word about the Philips CPAP recall. The recall specifically affects CPAP and BiLevel PAP machines manufactured prior to April 26, 2021. Given that the VA has distributed some 600,000 plus of these devices and utilizes another 2,000 in VA hospital or clinic settings, you can see why getting the word out is urgent. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that you have to stop using your machine right away. That decision should be made with your care team, but it does mean that you want to engage in the process to get a new machine sooner rather than later. So, in an effort to help the VA in this massive information campaign, we’re going to dedicate this next blog post to telling you everything you need to know about the Phillips CPAP recall.
We are assuming that most of those reading this article use a CPAP machine and are well aware of its use. However, on the off chance we have someone who just loves to read obscure articles, let us explain what a CPAP machine does. CPAP stands for “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure” and it is used as a common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It uses a hose and mask to deliver a constant and steady air pressure.
If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can increase your risk of major health problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks. For many, the idea of sleeping with a mask on all night is less than appealing and they often delay implementation. However, for those who have gone many years or decades without a good night’s sleep, that objection is quickly overwhelmed when the machine does its work. At the end of the day, getting a good night’s rest and not dying an early death makes the machine worth it all.
As much as we enjoy sticking it to the VA from time to time, the issue with the Philips recall is not VA or veteran specific. All manufactured machines from that era are being called with some 2 million of them in service within the United States. So the VA gets a pass from us on this one and a kudos for trying to get the word out. Now, let’s talk about what’s wrong.
The Philips machines use a foam material to reduce the sound of the device during operation. As it turns out, small particles from that foam could break loose and come in through their hose. That means you are breathing those tiny particles and the concern is that there could be toxic carcinogenic effects. Yes, they are saying it could cause cancer down the road as well as irritation, inflammatory response, headache, asthma, and other adverse effects to other organs.
The VA is sending notifications to all veterans who have been issued a device and doing what they can to spread the word about the recall. They are encouraging everyone to register their device with Philips Respironics on their website or call 877-907-7508. Philips will provide you with a new device as well as give you instructions on how to return your device. However, you need to know that Philips is advising that it could take up to a year due to a worldwide shortage. We’re guessing that they didn’t have 2 million CPAPs sitting in a warehouse somewhere collecting dust.
This does not mean that you should stop using your CPAP while you are waiting. That is a conversation you should have with your care team and physician. The risk of particles breaking loose has to be balanced with the risk of untreated sleep apnea. So please, consult your doctor and care team before you make any decision. The guidance Philips is showing states that the foam breakdown is more likely in machines that are more than three years old. They can also break down quicker in high humidity areas or if you are cleaning it with unapproved products, specifically ozone-based cleaning products.
Finally, you should also know that due to the sheer volume of units affected, VHA sleep clinics may need to alter day-to-day operations. While there are many good reasons to get mad at the VA, this is not one of them. They are responding to the nationwide recall like everyone else and simply trying to get the word out to as many affected veterans as possible. Again, they strongly encourage you to reach out to your care team before you make any final decisions regarding discontinuing use of the machine.
Valor 4 Vet will continue to help you fight for the care and benefits you earned through your service. In that regard, nothing changes for us here. If you were denied benefits, we’re happy to explore how we can help. In the meantime, stay safe, register your CPAP with Philips, and get the process started to receive your new machine.