The short answer to the major question of if you can legally get a CPAP machine without a prescription is no. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CPAP machines are classified as Class II devices. By being identified as a Class II device, a prescription is required in order to purchase a CPAP machine.
When starting your CPAP therapy journey, you will need to ensure your therapy is personalized to you, which is why a prescription is so important. A secondhand CPAP machine will leave you at risk for breathing in the previous wearer’s germs, your chance of getting sick, and the features not working as they should.
Let’s jump into why you can’t legally purchase a CPAP machine without a prescription, and why it is crucial to have one.
Why You Need a Prescription to Purchase Certain CPAP Equipment
To purchase a CPAP machine and mask as well as a humidifier, you’ll need to have a prescription in hand. When purchasing a CPAP machine without a prescription, you’re running the risk of receiving equipment that may not work correctly along with the fact that it is most likely not set up for you.
Why Is It Important to Get a CPAP Prescription?
For a successful and healthy CPAP therapy experience, a prescription is key.
Your 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
- Recommended CPAP Mask Type (Full Face, Nasal, Nasal Pillow)
- Replacement Part Schedule
A sleep study provides data about how you sleep and where the sleep struggles are. Without the results from your doctor, you would be taking a guess regarding the best treatment for you. A prescription turns the insights from your sleep test and makes it actionable, giving you access to successful treatment.
How Long Is Your 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 is it valid for as “lifetime,” then you are able to use it as many times as you need. 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 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.
How to Get a CPAP Prescription
To get a CPAP prescription, follow the steps below:
- Schedule an Appointment to Discuss Your Sleep With Your Doctor.
- 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.
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
Do I Need a Prescription for a Sleep Study?
There are two avenues that can be taken to receive a sleep study. Your primary care doctor can refer you to a sleep specialist who will order you a sleep study. Or, if allowed by your insurance, you can also visit a sleep specialist directly who will facilitate the process of getting you a sleep study.
How Much Does a Sleep Study Cost?
In our interview with Dr. Amie Stringfellow, she revealed a breakdown of the cost of a sleep study.
- In-Home Sleep Studies Typically Cost Around $180
- In-Lab Sleep Studies Can Cost as Much as $5,000
Your insurance can cover some of the costs, but it all depends on your deductible. Medicare will cover most types of sleep studies, but you may need to pay 20% of the Medicare negotiated amount after you’ve reached a certain deductible.
Where Can You Purchase CPAP Equipment?
After getting your prescription, it’s now time to get on your way to a restful night!
There are usually two ways you can get your CPAP equipment:
- Buy Online on CPAP.com
- Go Through Your Insurance Company
Getting a prescription for your CPAP therapy is not only required by law but it also gives you the best chance for therapy success by personalizing the equipment to you as well as ensuring the cleanliness and top-performance of your machine.
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.