USA Today brought nationwide attention to sleep apnea on August 19. An article printed by the news source used a central Florida city as the model to describe booming nationwide trends of the CPAP world. However, the article also raises an eyebrow, questioning whether the CPAP machines flying off the shelf are actually needed.
Lady Lake, Fla, described as a retirement “haven” by USA Today, saw more than a 100% increase in use of CPAP machines since 2004. Additionally, sleep centers are popping up all over the city of just 75,000 people. Nationwide, the article states that Medicare spending on CPAP use increased from $291 million in 2004 to $571 million in 2007.
Industry analysts have attributed the growth to greater awareness of sleep disorders and the increasing obesity epidemic. “As we get older and as we get fatter, we have more sleep apnea,” Juan A. Albino, a pulmonologist and sleep specialist in Lady Lake, told USA Today.
Although the sleep industry is growing faster as awareness increases and more patients are prescribed CPAP machines after an OSA diagnosis, the USA Today article poses an interesting question: “Are people getting treatment they don’t need?” Fred Holt of the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association asks USA Today. “Not everyone with a diagnosis of sleep apnea needs CPAP. Weight loss, avoiding alcohol and sedatives at bedtime, or changing sleep position could eliminate the problem for some.”
Whether a CPAP machine is necessary for every patient who is receiving one, the prescriptions are certainly generating revenue. USA Today cites Marketdata research, noting that nearly $2 billion is spent on CPAP devices annually worldwide, with most of that revenue coming from the United States.