We get it, CPAP equipment expenses can add up, and it's tempting for people with sleep apnea to try to save money by ordering products on Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and Craigslist. While it may seem like a harmless way to reduce your financial load, it may end up costing you more money in the end, not to mention there are serious health risks involved.
Can I Buy CPAP Supplies Without a Prescription?
The FDA classifies all PAP machines as Class II medical devices. This means that a CPAP machine or an assembled CPAP mask cannot legally be sold without a prescription, unless it’s to an authorized reseller. This protects the health of CPAP users who rely on sleep therapy that delivers their exact prescribed level of air pressure they need to keep airways open.
Some sellers will offer CPAP accessories, headgears, cleaners, tubing, filters, and other parts that separately do not constitute a medical device. This is not illegal. But beware of sellers who offer fully assembled CPAP masks or humidifiers without requiring a prescription. These too are classified medical devices, and carry the same penalties for sellers as selling a CPAP machine without a prescription.
Can I Buy a Used CPAP Machine?
You can check sites like Facebook Marketplace, eBaby, Craigslist, even visit a local garage sale and find used CPAP machines and other medical equipment for several hundred dollars less than the retail price. This may look like an ideal solution for someone trying to save some money, but consider what you’re NOT getting:
- The average lifespan of a CPAP or BiPAP machine is 5 years, and most sellers won’t list usage hours.
- The air pressure on a worn CPAP may not match the pressure settings on the screen, so there’s no guarantee you’re getting the right level of CPAP therapy.
- A manufacturer’s warranty won’t be included with a used machine, putting you on the hook for replacement should anything go wrong.
- The pressure settings won’t be adjusted by a certified clinician or respiratory therapist.
- The cleanliness of a used CPAP and CPAP supplies are in the hands (and mouth) of a stranger.
Can I Buy CPAP Supplies From an Online Marketplace?
Anytime you see a listing for a machine, assembled mask, or humidifier on a platform like Amazon, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace that does not require a prescription, you can’t assume it’s safe, even if it's new.
You may see a no-prescription machine or mask being sold on these platforms, but it’s not because the platform has deemed it ‘safe.’ Each platform has different ways of policing their seller listings, and prohibited listings can sometimes slip through the cracks.
Individuals sometimes advertise products as new, complete with manufacturer photos, when in reality they are used products that have been repackaged.
If you do shop on an online marketplace like Amazon or eBay, keep a lookout for authorized resellers, these are companies that will require a prescription and will be most likely to follow FDA guidelines.
Dangers of Used CPAP Equipment
There is a real safety risk when opting to purchase a used CPAP machine. When the prescription process is bypassed, the pressure settings won’t be adjusted by a certified clinician or respiratory therapist. While the a settings may be visible on screen, there is no guarantee it’s accurate. Since these need to be set specifically for each CPAP user based on your sleep test results, symptoms, and a number of other factors, this is not something you want to gamble with.
Perhaps the most obvious red flag is the cleanliness factor. Hospitals and medical device providers are able to assemble and refurbish machines due to the strict sanitization of equipment in an environment that is highly regulated and controlled. It is almost impossible to recreate that same sterile environment in a home. Even if you take all the precautions and clean the equipment to the best of your ability, there is still a high chance that it contains germs or other environmental contaminants from the previous owner.
CPAP machines that have been used or sitting around can be a breeding ground for yeast, mold, bacteria, viruses, and mildew. It is also possible for small household pests to lay eggs in the cracks of the machine. Unsanitary equipment can put you at risk for bronchial infections, pneumonia, and parasites.
When you do purchase a new machine, it is important to keep to a regular cleaning and replacement schedule, even when you know that you are the only person that has used it. To prevent these issues, you should regularly clean your CPAP supplies with warm, soapy water, and your humidifier water chamber should be emptied every night. Your full face mask or nasal mask cushion should be replaced every 2-4 weeks, nasal pillows should be replaced every 2 weeks, and headgear every 6 months.
Is It Legal to Sell a Used CPAP Machine?
It is not legal to sell a used CPAP, except to an authorized reseller. A reputable reseller can benefit sellers and buyers alike. If you’re looking to get rid of an old or unused CPAP machine, selling it to an authorized reseller can help to keep it out of the landfill.
If you’re looking for a more affordable alternative to a new CPAP machine, a refurbished CPAP may be the safe compromise you’re looking for.
Used vs Refurbished CPAP Machines
While a new CPAP machine is always best if you can afford it, we’ve all got to face our budget reality. At the end of the day, a refurbished CPAP machine is a safer and smarter alternative to a used CPAP.
To find a trustworthy reseller, look for one that verifies your prescription– they’re more likely to follow FDA guidelines on testing and sanitization.
At CPAPsupplies.com we work directly with your healthcare provider to get your prescription for you!
Our large selection of CPAP machines occasionally includes refurbished machines that have been tested, cleaned, disinfected, and inspected for damage. Each one clearly shows the usage hours up front– so you can shop in confidence knowing your CPAP device is safe and effective.
Don’t let your sleep disorder, or a used CPAP, keep you awake at night!