News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. Aug. 31, 2021: According to medical research, a whopping 152 million people in Latin America struggle with sleep apnea, a serious disorder in which breathing frequently stops during sleep. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which approximately 80% of the diagnosed individuals have. It entails the muscle that supports the soft tissue in your throat, such as the tongue and the soft palate, temporarily relaxing, which inevitably causes your airway to narrow or even close.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to weighty health complications, such as high blood pressure, recurrent heart attacks, glaucoma, stroke, atrial fibrillation, and severe daytime fatigue. Alarmingly, up to 80% of people with sleep apnea are currently undiagnosed.
However, a very effective way to keep sleep apnea under control is continuous positive airway pressure therapy, which is carried out by using a CPAP device prescribed by your physician. This machine works by pressurizing the air delivered into your airway through a hose and a mask while sleeping, keeping your airway permanently open.
Considering the number of people who have sleep apnea in Latin America, it should come as no surprise that the region represents 12% of the global sleep apnea devices market at the moment. In 2021, the sleep apnea devices market in Latin America was worth $0.99 billion and, by 2026, it is expected to grow to a value of $1.39 billion. Right now, it is the fastest growing in the global sleep apnea devices market.
Philips Respironics, the Largest Manufacturer of CPAP Devices in the World, Recalls 4 Million Dangerous Sleep Apnea Devices
On July 14, 2021, the Dutch company Philips voluntarily recalled 4 million CPAP, BiPAP, and ASV sleep apnea machines and ventilators. The reason why these devices were taken off the market concerns the polyurethane foam they contain, used to muffle sound and vibration. It appears that when the foam degrades, it releases toxic chemicals that the user unavoidably inhales while the device is in use overnight. Among these harmful chemicals are benzene, formaldehyde, solvents, volatile organic compounds, and methylene chloride.
Exposure to the majority of these chemicals has a strong connection with cancer. People who have been using their defective Philips sleep apnea device for six months or longer are at risk of developing terrible diseases, such as leukemia, brain cancer, lung cancer, nasal cancer, liver cancer, and stomach cancer.
While no case of injury due to the use of a faulty Philips sleep apnea device has been reported so far, the company issued a notice along with the recall informing consumers in respect to the health effects of exposure to damaged polyurethane foam, which are “headache, irritation, inflammation, respiratory issues, and possible toxic and carcinogenic effects.”
It is crucial to talk with your healthcare provider before ceasing the use of one of these Philips sleep apnea devices, as they may recommend you to continue your usual therapy since, in many cases, the benefits outweigh the risks. Only a medical professional with experience in treating sleep apnea can tell you whether you should keep using your current machine or ventilator, have it replaced by the company, or try another therapy for your disorder.
There Are Currently 18 Lawsuits Pending Against Philips
Throughout the United States, there are currently 18 ongoing class-action lawsuits against the Dutch company, with the vast majority of plaintiffs alleging that Philips had knowledge of the defective nature of their sleep apnea devices long before the recall. They accuse the company of failing to promptly take action and cease the manufacturing and selling the faulty machines and ventilators. They seek refunds or the replacement of their sleep apnea devices with safe ones by filing a recalled CPAP machine claim.
For instance, a truck driver from Oregon named Gerry Shelton, who relies on a Philips BiPAP machine, filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer on June 29, 2021. He had been prescribed the sleep apnea device in 2020, and shortly after the recall, he had no option but to stop using it. As a result, the man could no longer perform his job as a professional truck driver, as he claimed that he was unable to drive with untreated sleep apnea. This is understandable since untreated sleep apnea causes extreme daytime fatigue, easily preventing one from staying alert while driving. To make matters worse, Shelton went through atrial fibrillation due to stopping therapy with the BiPAP device.
Some Information Points to the Fact that Philips May Have Been Aware of the Problem of Their Devices Long Before the Recall
Whether Philips had prior knowledge about the defectiveness of their sleep apnea devices but failed to take prompt action will remain undetermined until one of the lawsuits is settled or goes to trial. Nevertheless, in the meantime, a series of information has come to light concerning the company having been aware of the faulty nature of their sleep apnea devices for a long time before issuing the recall. Firstly, many plaintiffs allege that Philips received several complaints about breathing in black particles from consumers for years.
Another possible piece of evidence is the quarterly earnings report of the company, in which corporate investors were allegedly notified about the issue the DreamStation sleep apnea device had. The document was released to investors just a few weeks before the voluntary recall. Finally, the fact that Philips decided to release the new line of DreamStation devices a month prior to the recall may indicate that the company had indeed been aware of the defect of the old line of products and tried to make sure consumers would have the option to purchase safe sleep apnea devices after finding out about the recall.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Miguel Leyva is a Case Manager at Atraxia Law, responsible for gathering key information about people who were injured by using defective products and who are seeking damages. The information he collects and analyzes is the basis for filing an eligible claim for defective products and injuries sustained.