In short, Yes. If you’re going through your insurance company, preferred Durable Medical Equipment (DME) provider, or online retailer, you’ll need a valid prescription to purchase a CPAP machine, a complete CPAP mask, and a CPAP humidifier.
From there, it can get a little complicated.
Navigating the world of CPAP therapy, insurance coverage, and prescription requirements can be daunting. Here at CPAP.com, though, we’ve been connecting people with the information and supplies they need for healthy and successful sleep apnea therapy for over twenty years.
Regulations have changed quite a bit in that time, and there’s a lot of confusion around CPAP prescriptions because of it. This guide should help clear up any confusion or misconceptions you may have about your CPAP prescription, and why it’s important to have one.
We’ll also cover ways you can obtain a prescription, detail some important things you should know about the process, and even offer resources for tracking down an old prescription you might have.
Let’s jump into why you can’t purchase a CPAP machine without a prescription, and why it is crucial to have one.
Why Do You Need a Prescription for CPAP Equipment?
CPAP machines, masks, and humidifiers are classified and regulated by the FDA as Class II medical devices, which means a valid prescription is required for a legal sale to take place. In 2018, the FDA reclassified CPAP machines from Class III to Class II in an effort to spur innovation for a better user experience by relaxing regulatory burdens.
Sleep apnea can be a very difficult condition to adequately assess and treat because there are several different underlying issues that could be at play depending on the type of apnea events you experience. By working with a healthcare professional you’ll be prescribed the exact treatment and equipment you need to improve your quality of life.
Can I Get a CPAP Machine Without a Prescription?
As stated above, the FDA regulates CPAP machines and requires companies that sell these therapy devices to require a prescription from anyone intending to purchase one. To be clear, you cannot purchase a CPAP machine without a valid prescription from an appropriately licensed medical professional.
Luckily, you can get tested for sleep apnea and receive a valid prescription for your CPAP equipment all from the comfort of your own home. Visit our home sleep test for more details!
Can I Get CPAP Supplies Without a Prescription?
While a prescription is required for machines, masks, and humidifiers, you do not need a prescription to purchase CPAP supplies such as replacement mask parts, tubing/hoses (with the exception of some heated tubing), external batteries/power supplies, or filters for your machine.
CPAP accessories such as fabric wraps, aromatherapy bundles, CPAP pillows, and chinstraps can also be purchased without a prescription.
If you’re really savvy, you’ll find that you can typically even piece together a mask, or get pretty darn close, by searching for the mask parts individually.
To make this even easier, if you’re wondering whether or not you need a prescription for a certain piece of equipment, simply search for it on our website! Every single product that requires a prescription for purchase will have an icon under the ‘Add to Cart’ button that states “Prescription Required”.
Why Is It Important to Get a CPAP Prescription?
For a successful and healthy sleep therapy experience, a prescription is key.
Your CPAP prescription will tell you:
- Your Correct Therapy Pressure
- The Type of Device You Need (CPAP, APAP, BiPAP)
- Your Sleep Apnea Diagnosis as There Are Three Different Types of Sleep Apnea
- Your Recommended CPAP Mask Type (Full Face, Nasal, Nasal Pillow)
- Your Replacement Part Schedule
Your prescription is crucial in treating you based on the recommendations from your sleep study as made by your sleep specialist or doctor. A prescription turns the insights from your sleep test into an actionable way forward, giving you access to successful treatment.
How to Get a CPAP Prescription
Acquiring a CPAP prescription can be a pretty involved process, and it’s not so straightforward as simply asking your doctor for a prescription.
First, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your sleep health to rule out other underlying conditions. Your doctor can then write you a prescription for a sleep study that you’ll participate in. After reviewing the results of your sleep study, your doctor can write you a prescription for a CPAP machine if necessary.
To get a CPAP prescription, follow the steps below:
- Schedule an Appointment to Discuss Your Sleep With Your Doctor. Express Interest in Participating in a Sleep Study.
- You’ll Setup the Test, and Fall Asleep as You Normally Would.
- Your Results Will Then Be Sent to Your Doctor.
- Your Doctor Will Write a Prescription Based on Your Sleep Study.
Can I Get a CPAP Prescription Online?
An exciting new option in the digital age is to have a sleep study conducted in the comfort of your own home! Our at-home sleep apnea test involves a consultation with a real doctor and is a great way to get a CPAP prescription online.
At-home sleep studies are not as comprehensive and cannot diagnose Central Sleep Apnea, but they’re perfectly capable of determining whether you’re a candidate for sleep apnea therapy based on your indicators for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Our home sleep test can prescribe you with an APAP machine directly, but others may require you to take your results to your primary care doctor in order for them to write you an appropriate prescription.
Who Can Write a CPAP Prescription?
To receive a CPAP prescription, you can make an appointment with your:
- Medical Doctor (MD)
- Doctor of Osteopathy (DO)
- Psychiatrist (MD Only)
- Physicians Assistant (PA)
- Nurse Practitioner (NP)
- Naturopathic Physicians
Prescriptions written by the following medical practitioners are not accepted:
- Registered Nurse (RN)
- Respiratory Caregivers
- Medical Assistants
While your prescription can simply be written on a standard prescription pad, we also offer a General Prescription Form to send to your prescribing physician.
What Does My Prescription Need to Say?
There are quite a few things that need to be on your CPAP prescription, and if you have the wrong phrases in the wrong places, it could affect your ability to get the right equipment for your needs. To help simplify this, we’ve gathered a list of everything your prescription needs to have on it.
Here are a few basic requirements of any prescription for any CPAP equipment:
- Your physician’s contact information/NPI
- Your physician’s signature
- The patient’s full name
- The Date of the Order
- Length of Need
How Long Is My Prescription Valid?
Some prescriptions for a CPAP machine have a finite expiration date or can be valid for life as judged by how many “refills” your doctor writes on the prescription.
If your prescription states that it is valid for a “lifetime,” then you are able to use it as many times as you need (this is also expressed as PRN, LON, 99, or 99 months). However, many prescriptions will have an “X” number of refills, meaning if it states five refills, then you will have to see your doctor again on your sixth. Some prescriptions may also have a “valid until” date, which means it cannot be used after the expiration date.
How Do I Track Down My Old Prescription?
At CPAP.com, we can help you to track down any old prescriptions you may have. To do so, we will send a message to your doctor’s office to ask them for the prescription you have on file.
If you’d like some assistance getting an old prescription from your doctor, give us a call at 1-800-356-5221 (M-F 8a-8p CST, Sat 8a-5p CST), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your doctor needs help with writing a valid prescription for a CPAP machine, mask, or humidifier, we can tell them what topics need to be covered in order for CPAP.com to be able to process the order.
You also can find your previous doctor and contact his or her office. Just search the doctor’s name or practice name online, and give them a call to see if they still have it and if it is still valid.
If you previously worked with another DME, there’s a chance you can get the prescription from them as they should still have it on file. The previous DME can release your old prescription to you, and you can send it to us.
Where Can I Purchase CPAP Equipment?
Once you’ve secured your prescription, you can be on your way to acquiring the supplies you need to get started with your sleep apnea therapy.
The two main ways you can get your CPAP equipment are:
Going through insurance can be stressful for some, and there’s a whole other world of policies and deductibles to dive into on the matter; it’s best to get in contact with your agent to explore your options and see what’s best for you.
Simply put, your insurance provider will typically decide for you what equipment they’ll cover and what you can get.
For this reason, most people prefer to do their own shopping, and typically save money by paying out of pocket for their CPAP supplies and equipment.
To summarize, getting a prescription for sleep therapy is not only required by law but it also gives you the best chance for therapy success. By ensuring that your equipment is personalized to your needs, you’re setting yourself up for a cleaner, safer, and more effective CPAP therapy with greater peace of mind, and empowering yourself by taking control of your own healthcare.
If you decide to go through CPAP.com for your CPAP needs, we have a number of different ways for you to send your prescription information to us to make the buying process easier:
- Fax your prescription, toll-free, to 866-353-2727, or internationally to 713-541-7377
- Email your prescription to email@example.com
- Upload your prescription via the prescriptions section of your CPAP.com account.
Daniela has researched and published over 60 articles covering topics that aim to inform and empower people living with Sleep Apnea. As an avid reader and researcher, Daniela continues to grow her knowledge about Sleep Apnea and CPAP therapy everyday with the help of coworkers, CPAP.com customers, and members of other CPAP communities online.