Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the leading type of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Before one can start CPAP therapy, the disorder must first be diagnosed through a sleep study to establish the existence and severity of OSA. Once a determination of OSA has been made, and CPAP therapy has been established as the recommended treatment, a prescription for a CPAP device must be obtained before equipment can be issued.
Patients have many questions concerning prescriptions for CPAP therapy like: Why do I require a prescription? Where can I obtain a prescription? How long is a prescription good for? Here we aim to answer these significant questions and more.
Common CPAP Prescription Queries
Why Do I Want a Prescription?
Under federal law, medical equipment are categorized into 3 classes–class I, II, or III- depending on their risks and the regulatory controls needed to provide a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Medical machines are categorized into 3 classes–class I, II, or III- based on their risks and the regulatory controls needed to provide a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness.
CPAP devices are considered a Class II Medical Device and, as such, need a prescription for distribution.
There are many reasons why a prescription is necessary to buy CPAP medical equipment:
Insurances need a prescription to cover payments. Without a prescription, they will not pay for the device.
Prescriptions come with a set pressure setting based on outcomes of the sleep study. Equipment cannot be adequately set without pressure settings. Pressure settings should only ever be determined by a board-certified sleep expert’s interpretation of the sleep study.
Some patients being treated with CPAP for obstructive sleep apnea develop mixed sleep apnea (central sleep apnea events that arise after therapy). Patients with mixed sleep apnea may require a different PAP machine that responds to central events such as a BiPAP machine or ASV equipment.
Without a prescription that includes pressure settings based on the patient’s apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) and lowest oxygen saturation (SaO2), patients may not obtain the best care. Inadequate settings can be detrimental to a patient’s health.
Who Can Write CPAP Prescriptions?
Doctor of Osteopathy
Psychiatrist (MD only)
For the most portion, a prescription may be filled out by any MD or DO licensed to write Rx. Nevertheless, the scripts are almost always based on the recommendations of the interpreting physician. It is always best to have a prescription from a board-certified sleep apnea expert.
How Long is My Prescription Good For?
How long a prescription is valid depends on the period that the prescribing physician recommends. Many PAP prescriptions are filled out for a lifetime prescription.
However, if a prescription notes a precise number of refills, it will only be valid until that number has been reached.
If a prescription notes an expiry date, the prescription is only valid until that date.
If a prescription expires, a new sleep study will be essential to obtain a new CPAP prescription.
How do I get my CPAP device if I have a prescription?
First, you need to decide where you want to buy your CPAP equipment. If you’re not sure where to get your equipment from, check out this article that gives great tips on choosing the best CPAP provider.
The next step is getting the prescription to your machine provider before they can dispense your order. You can either contact the prescribing physician and have them send the prescription to the provider, or you can give your doctor’s contact information to the equipment provider and have them get ahold of it.