Sleep Review interviews Mei-Mei Stark, product manager, sleep therapy, at Puritan Bennett, a division of Tyco Healthcare.

 StarkMei-Mei Stark

As 2004 begins, how many Americans have resolved to get more and better sleep? Quite a few, if you judge by the growth of the sleep industry. Sleep Review took a look back at 2003 with Mei-Mei Stark, product manager, sleep therapy, at Puritan Bennett, a division of Tyco Healthcare, Pleasanton, Calif, and got some predictions for the new year.

Q. What was the most important breakthrough in the sleep field this past year?
A. With the continued increasing awareness of OSA and the growth in numbers of diagnosed patients, there is a need to provide treatment options to fit the wide range of patients’ needs.

Previously, CPAP units were large, heavy, odd-shaped devices that by their very size were rarely moved or used outside of a patient’s home environment. In 2003, Puritan Bennett released the smallest, lightest CPAP device on the market—the GoodKnight® 420 CPAP system. Because this CPAP device weighs only 11/2 pounds, it allows patients to continue treatment away from home.

No longer are there any excuses for business travelers, who often travel with carry-on luggage only, to not include their CPAP device with their travel items. This important factor guards against the loss of sleep quality that OSA patients can experience with just 1 night of not using their CPAP device. By using a device that permits restorative sleep, the business traveler can remain alert and work proficiently at all times.

Q. As we enter into 2004, what key changes will occur in the sleep field and with Puritan Bennett?
A. Cardiologists will become increasingly aware of the benefits of finding and treating sleep apnea within their cardiac patient population.

The need for more comfortable interfaces to use with CPAP devices will continue to evolve and develop. The desire by informed patients to choose among many differing nasal interfaces or CPAP units will become an increasingly important factor as patients want to be more involved in managing their disorder. The additional restrictions of insurance benefits may drive many patients to purchase additional masks, devices, and monitoring hardware entirely on their own.

Compliance with CPAP therapy is of paramount importance in fighting the epidemic of sleep apnea. We at Puritan Bennett are continually working on new ways to provide our customers with the tools that will ensure the success of their treatment.

Q. How do you think emerging research about sleep apnea drugs will affect the sleep market?
A. Although the concept of a drug treatment for sleep apnea is attractive, it is unlikely that any single pharmaceutical agent will replace CPAP as the mainstay of OSA treatment. Perhaps certain pharmaceutical agents in the future will reduce some of the clinical severity within the spectrum of OSA patients, but they are not likely to undermine or replace CPAP therapy.