FDA Recommends CPAP as a Considered Alternative Combatant for Coronavirus Due to Ventilator Shortage

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COVID-19, also known informally as Coronavirus, is taking the world by storm and hitting the United States hard with over 66,000 cases as of March 25th, 2020, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The virus is inflicting tremendous strain on U.S. hospitals and the healthcare system at large resulting in a shortage of medical supplies including ventilators. A ventilator is a medical device that helps patients who cannot properly breathe on their own by pumping air into their lungs and is literally a lifesaver when it comes to combating COVID-19. Unfortunately, the U.S. is in short supply of ventilators with a total estimated supply of approximately 170,000 according to Johns Hopkins researchers. To put it in perspective, New York City alone is estimating a need of 35,000 ventilators to treat it’s Coronavirus stricken patients and currently only has around 3,500, a tenth of what is estimated will be needed. As a result of this shortage, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends “that health care providers and facilities consider alternative devices capable of delivering breaths or pressure support to satisfy medically necessary treatment practices for patients requiring such ventilatory support” including Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), auto-CPAP (APAP), and bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP or BiLevel) machines that are typically used for the treatment of sleep apnea.

What is a CPAP Machine?


CPAP machines help patients breathe, like ventilators do except they are much different. A PAP machine helps people with sleep apnea breathe more regularly and easily while they are sleeping. It does this by increasing the air pressure in the patient’s throat to prevent the airway from collapsing when inhaling. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. There are three different types of PAP machines:

  • CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and is the most commonly used treatment option for people experiencing obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP machines deliver constant and pressurized air into the airways.


  • APAP stands for Automatic Positive Airway Pressure. APAP machines are a non-invasive treatment for sleep apnea that deliver pressurized and unobstructed air through a mask during sleep. The APAP has two range settings, low and high. The setting automatically adjusts based on the user’s needs using an algorithm.


  • BiPAP machines are a non-invasive treatment for sleep apnea that have two pressure settings: one for inhalation and one for exhalation. This method BiPAP machines take is used in situations where marked difficulty breathing is present.

Given the shortfall in ventilators it makes sense that the FDA would recommend consideration for a machine that also helps patients breath. However, all patients, including those suffering from Coronavirus, need to take the necessary precautions when using these devices.

Take the Necessary Precautions.


As it relates to using a CPAP, APAP, or BIPAP to combat COVID-19, it is paramount that users take the appropriate precautions during its use. The FDA recommends taking precautions with environmental control (for example, negative pressure) or additional filtration where necessary, stating, “Ventilating patients with communicable diseases using devices that are single limb or noninvasive without a filtered seal from the atmosphere may contaminate the room air and increase risk of transmission. This risk may be exacerbated by high-flow nasal cannula systems or CPAP machines.” The FDA also recommends contacting the device manufacturer or reviewing the manufacturer’s website when using the device outside of its labeled indications, in this case to combat Coronavirus. The two largest PAP manufacturers are ResMed and Philips Respironics. Here are links to the instructional user guides and manuals:

How to Get a CPAP Machine.


So how do you get a CPAP machine? If you are suffering from COVID-19 it’s likely that you would be hospitalized and you would receive the prescription and machine from your care provider. It’s also likely in this scenario that once you recovered from the virus that you would not be discharged with the machine - you wouldn’t need it anymore and it’s likely another Coronavirus patient would need it. If you’re already a CPAP user here’s what you need to know when you get discharged. However, if you’re an outpatient with COVID-19 you can purchase a CPAP machine online. To do so, it is required that you have a written doctor’s note and/or test results indicating that you do have Coronavirus along with a written prescription for PAP therapy. If you have this requisite documentation then you can purchase a CPAP, APAP, or BIPAP from an online provider like Health Sqyre and receive a machine quickly.

Best PAP Machines.


If you’re wondering which machine to choose, we recommend purchasing a machine from one of the aforementioned market leaders, ResMed or Philips Respironics. Here are the top machines from each manufacturer broken down by category:

It’s also worth noting that we recommend the APAP over the CPAP because it uses the latest technology to automatically adjust to the optimal pressure setting on a breath by breath basis.

To fight this global pandemic we all need to step up individually and do our part to flatten the curve and to only use healthcare resources when they’re truly needed. To do this you should follow the CDC guidelines around COVID-19. Despite the FDA’s messaging to consider using PAP devices as an alternative if ventilators cannot be acquired, we urge you to be prudent and to only use these devices with a doctor’s recommendation and written prescription. Heeding this advice is doing your part to not strain the system. During this time of crisis we know how much our customers need us and rely on us for all of their CPAP needs so we remain open 24/7 at HealthSqyre.com and we will continue to provide you with exceptional customer service via phone, email, text message and live chat. Our Customer Experience team is working remotely and is ready to help with any and all questions. Email support@healthsqyre.com or call or text us at 720.507.7718.

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