While driving my 8 year old son to baseball practice last week I heard what may be the best marketing angle for a commercial on the radio. It wasn’t your typical “We are the Best” or “Our Product Will Do This Better than Anyone Else” it was a simple warning (repeated in a stern voice) that would lead you to believe that their product works so well that you better watch out. So what was this crazy warning that would drive sales through the roof? It stated something along the lines that some people experience too much rapid weight loss and if that occurs with you should discontinue use. This is a brilliant form of marketing from a dietary supplement company that is part of a 14 billion dollar a year industry.
So how does this relate to a blog about CPAP, with exception to the fact that many people that have sleep apnea also struggle with maintaining a healthy weight? The tie in to all of this is what makes one non FDA regulated dietary supplement better than any other? If you ask anyone that struggles with weight loss many of them will read off a long list of different products that have tried with little to zero success. So what makes one CPAP machine or CPAP mask better or produce better results than any other? Positive airway pressure (PAP) is positive airway pressure right?
Unlike store bought dietary supplements, CPAP machines and CPAP masks are FDA regulated and a lot of research and development by these large manufacturers would suggest to you that one is better than the other but is that really the case? A few years ago Jason Crowe and I put this theory to the test when we asked one of sleep physicians, heavily revered in the sleep apnea industry, to participate in a “blind taste test”. You see, he was heavily referring one particular manufacturer and model of continuous positive airway pressure and wasn’t very open to trying out other brands. So how do we get him to recognize that other, less expensive and lesser known models may be just as effective in treating patients that suffer from sleep apnea?
Simple, we set up 4 different standard fixed pressure machines on the same set pressure of 6cm/H2O (all tested on a water manometer for calibration) and offered the minimum and maximum comfort settings offered such as C-Flex. All devices included a heated humidifier and were “taste tested” with and without since some users do not use humidity and some manufactures claim their humidifiers are the standard that sets them apart from others. The same therapy mask was used for all tests as well as a rotation of the three different types (nasal, nasal pillow and full face). The tests were conducted in a sleep therapy testing room with an average sleep latency of 22 minutes and tested 2 hours apart.
All devices tested fairly and our sleep physician was asked to select the device he thought was the one he currently referred to patients the most. He was also asked to rank the devices in an order that he thought preformed the best from a comfort standpoint. He was shocked to find out that the device he referred to the most patient was not the device he selected, nor was it his second guess. This really opened his eyes to the way CPAP machines are marketed. Huge marketing dollars by manufacturers with deep pockets can lead you to believe they offer a superior product however when tested in a practical situations, positive airway pressure devices from a therapy standpoint show little difference.
You don’t have to break the bank when shopping for sleep apnea therapy devices and interfaces. Many newcomers to the market are offering affordable solution for treating your sleep apnea and snoring problems.
Price: The price range of a standard machine can range from $275.00 (yes, for a new one) to $849.00. From a therapy standpoint there may not be much clinical difference to warrant spending more on a CPAP unless you are looking for every option to be included. In regards to masks, we have seen expensive masks that didn’t perform well as far as leak, durability, and comfort and some “cheaper” masks that out performed in all categories. It really comes down to each individual when selecting a nasal mask or full face mask however MOST nasal pillow masks rank relatively evenly.
Portability: There is major trend leaning to smaller and travel friendly therapy devices. Currently Transcend and Human Design offer very small (almost unbelievably small) units and more manufactures will follow that lead. Keep in mind that when you add the humidifier, these units double (at least) in size.
Comfort Features: Pressure relief is a growing staple in PAP technology; many manufacturers offer it and refer to it by different trade names however it is typically the same throughout. The pressure relief kicks in when you exhale against the EPAP pressure, dropping it sometimes by as much as 1.5 cm/H2O. In the industry it has been referred to as the “Poor Man’s Bi-Level” since bi-level devices are so much more costly. Bi-Level offers two different pressure settings, one on inhalation (IPAP) and one on exhalation (EPAP).
Warranty: 2 year is the most common standard warranty on therapy devices such as ResMed and Philips Respironics however Devilbiss, made in the United States, offers an industry best 5 year warranty.
Compliance Reporting: Many of the older models did not offer a full compliance reporting ( a download option to show use and effectiveness) however with an overwhelming number of transportation professionals mandated to undergo sleep apnea evaluations and proof of therapy outcomes, compliance reporting is becoming a standard feature of CPAP machines.
Keep Calm and CPAP On
So I guess from a marketing standpoint the best thing to say here would be advising you to be careful when using CPAP on a regular basis, those who do so may experience a healthy night’s sleep, frequently resulting in an increase in energy, better mood, weight loss, lower blood pressure, etc , etc.