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CPAP Shortage: What’s Behind It, When Will it End, and What Can You Do in The Meantime?

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CPAP shortage Illustration of supply chain affecting cpap machines

If you’ve spent any time looking online to buy a new CPAP machine, you’ve probably noticed a shortage of availability, and higher-priced machines.

Trucks without truck drivers, ships stuck at sea, computer chips in short supply, and a massive recall of CPAP devices by one of the world’s largest manufacturers of sleep apnea devices have left millions of people short on breath and running out of patience. This is the unfortunate story that’s led to a shortage of CPAP machines and how it’s affecting millions of people suffering from sleep apnea. 

We know that this has been and continues to be a stressful time for many of you. Our priority is helping you get the treatment you need in these uncertain times while also shedding a bit of light on the events that led us here and how we believe the situation may improve in 2022.

In this article, we’ll discuss what’s behind the shortage of critical sleep apnea devices, which machines are most affected, and offer you our current best advice on how to continue your sleep apnea therapy during these difficult and unprecedented times. 

Make sure to read until the end because we’ll also cover what machines are still available and some alternatives you may want to consider to manage and treat your Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

Skip ahead: What CPAP Machines Are In-Stock?

Is There a CPAP Machine Shortage?

In short, yes.

A perfect storm of events, coupled with a global supply chain disruption, has led to a shortage of critical medical devices. But the supply disruption isn’t isolated to the medical industry. It’s affecting everything from computers and phones to washing machines to cars and trucks as well as medical devices like pacemakers, ultrasound machines, and CPAP devices. It’s a bad time to buy a car and an even worse time to need critical medical care, but CPAP.com is committed to helping you navigate this frustrating reality. 

Because of the Philips recall, pandemic-era supply chain disruptions, and shortage of semiconductor chips, it’s likely we will continue to see a low supply of CPAP devices in the first half of 2022. We hope that by the end of 2022, this issue will resolve as we will explain further in this article.

What Caused the CPAP Machine Shortage?

The current shortage of CPAP units is the result of a “perfect storm” of events. The classic law of supply and demand, at no fault to the community of sleep apnea patients, is being played out during a critical time in history.

Increased Demand After Philips’ Recall

The increased demand for new CPAP devices started when Philips Respironics announced the recall of an estimated 3-4 million sleep apnea and ventilator devices in June 2021. This number continued to grow as the scope of the recall became more clear and, as of January 2022, the recall includes at least 5.2 million breathing machines.

As you can imagine, this left both the CPAP community and CPAP retailers scrambling to understand the next steps. Many sleep apnea patients have been left with little choice but to continue using their recalled devices or pay out of pocket for a new device (if they can find one).

The recall may have set the stage for an increase in demand for new sleep apnea devices, but CPAP manufacturers are having a difficult time meeting that demand. 

Higher Shipping Costs and Supply Chain Disruptions

So who’s to blame for the supply chain disruptions?

We can blame—yup, you guessed it—the COVID-19 pandemic. We all know the impact the pandemic has had in each of our lives, but it’s also had a snowball effect on chip manufacturing, shipping logistics, and the world’s supply chain

Even in 2020, many CPAP manufacturers faced a shortage of shipping options. Cargo ships have been stuck at sea and even companies like Walmart are purchasing their own cargo ship companies to avoid the congestion. While most of the supplies are shipped overseas via cargo ships, airfreight is also used (at a much higher cost), affecting the prices of all our favorite grocery staples.

You may not know this, but a significant amount of air freight shipments are placed in the underbelly of passenger airplanes. When passenger planes were grounded due to the lockdown in 2020, this resulted in a significant reduction of cargo capacity.

CPAP Manufacturers Face Chip Shortages 

Modern CPAP devices use computer chips to operate, and the shortage isn’t helping CPAP manufacturers like ResMed and 3B Medicalmeet the new demand after Philips’ recall. 

In March of 2021, right before Philips’ recall, a semiconductor factory fire caused a massive disruption of computer chip manufacturing. This led to automobile manufacturers canceling orders and chip manufacturers retooling their operations to fulfill orders for other electronics fueled by the surge in people working from home who needed new laptops, iPhones, and other electronic devices.

To make matters worse, the world currently depends largely on one major chip manufacturer in Taiwan. 

Fortunately, companies like Intel recognize this issue and have plans to spend $20 billion to build two new chip plants in Arizona. “We don’t want to create a situation where the United States, which created the semiconductor industry and Silicon Valley, would be completely dependent on other nations for that product,” said Al Thompson, who leads Intel’s US government relations.

The Need for Prioritizing Chips for Medical Devices

Do we really need to prioritize chips for the latest Playstation video game console or smart washing machine over life-saving medical devices like sleep apnea machines? 

ResMed’s Chief Executive Mick Farrell thinks not.

ResMed’s CEO has been actively engaged in urging semiconductor makers to consider placing medical devices – such as ResMed’s ventilators and sleep apnea machines – in the front line of shipments. 

“I am definitely working with some of the biggest names out there and really asking, begging, pleading that we should prioritize medical devices over another cellphone, another electric car, another cloud-connected refrigerator,” he said.

How Long Will the Chip Shortage Last?

Some experts predict the semiconductor shortage to last until early 2023. 

Tips for Navigating the CPAP Machine Shortage

Now for some good news! If you are looking to replace a recalled Philips Respironics machine (out of pocket), upgrade your old machine, or are just starting your journey to treat sleep apnea, here are some helpful tips to navigate these challenging times:

1. Current CPAP Machines Available and in Stock on CPAP.com

As of this writing, we currently have a limited stock of CPAP machines. Here’s a list of the best CPAP machines we currently have in stock:

Read our updated review of the AirSense 10 (Card-to-Cloud) version and AirSense 11 Review.

While the AirMini is technically a travel CPAP machine, it’s an ultra-capable device backed by the same advanced breathing algorithm you’ll find in the flagship AirSense 10 Auto. 

With comfort features like Ramp, Auto Start/Stop, and exhalation relief for more natural breathing, it’s perfectly capable of meeting your needs at home full time or on the road

Though the AirMini doesn’t support traditional humidifiers, it does offer waterless humidification in the form of HumidX and HumidX Plus, which is great news for those who use humidification. The HumidX disc is dropped into the end of the hose before it connects to your CPAP mask. It then absorbs moisture from your exhalations and recycles it into your therapy pressure when you inhale. 

While HumidX works well for most people, it’s worth noting that those with severe allergies or respiratory infections may find waterless humidification to be irritating to the throat and lungs, so test it in short bursts (nap, anyone?) before using it full-time.

2. Should You Consider Purchasing a Used CPAP Machine From Craigslist or Similar Listing Sites?

While people do use sites like Craigslist and eBay to purchase previously owned CPAP equipment, it’s not something we can recommend for a variety of reasons.

For starters, while some machines keep track of overall run time, it’s easy to lie about how many hours the machine has clocked on it. More commonly, however, the device is being sold by a family member or friend of someone who has passed away and they simply do not know how long the machine was used or how to check. 

There’s also the issue of sanitation – you likely won’t know the full extent of how well the machine was cared for or how well it was sanitized after use. Cleaning and sanitization are critical for proper care of your CPAP equipment. Additionally, you would have to reset the pressure settings as they were set for the original owner who likely has a different prescription than you, which can be a big hassle.

Speaking of prescriptions, it’s technically illegal to purchase a CPAP machine without a prescription from your doctor. Finally, you should also be aware that scammers are taking full advantage of the Philips Recall and supply chain issues by posting fake listings on popular selling platforms.

Due to the high level of uncertainty and vulnerability that comes with purchasing a secondhand CPAP through unofficial channels, we do not advocate for or recommend buying a used CPAP machine. 

3. Can’t Afford a Brand New Machine? 

We understand that not everyone can afford a new CPAP device. That’s why we’ve written a detailed guide discussing the various different CPAP assistance programs available; if you need financial assistance, we encourage you to read it.

4. Finally, Is CPAP Really the Only Option To Treat Sleep Apnea?

While CPAP therapy continues to be the “gold standard” in treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), there are several alternatives to CPAP therapy worth considering.

We’ve recently published a complete guide to the different CPAP alternatives and suggest you read it if you are considering other options.

CPAP.com’s Commitment to Your Sleep Health

We’re doing everything we can to maintain an inventory of critical sleep apnea devices so that folks like you have access to life-saving machines. 

As we’ve outlined in this article, the manufacturers we purchase from are facing higher costs due to supply chain constraints and shortages of critical components used to manufacture their sleep apnea devices.

Our team has been in constant communication with CPAP manufacturers to understand inventory availability and flow. We’ve left no stone unturned by sourcing outside of normal distribution channels and paying higher air freight premiums in the face of congested shipping ports to accommodate inventory constraints. Our team continues to work around the clock during these unprecedented times to ensure you get the therapy you need.  

We will continue to advocate for the health of our customers by providing low-cost CPAP equipment and supplies to the best of our ability—just as we always have. 

Final Thoughts

While there isn’t an immediate solution we can implement to speed up the computer chip shortages and supply chain issues, we hope that by the second half of 2022, manufacturers will be able to ramp up production to meet demand. We are also continually monitoring the situation with Philips’ recall, which you can read the latest updates on here.

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