A Safer Way to Buy a Used CPAP for Sleep Apnea

Medically Reviewed

Q. I have sleep apnea and need a CPAP device, but cost is a concern. Should I buy a used CPAP appliance online?

A. Secondhand CPAP devices are frequently available for sale online at prices that are generally far below full retail cost. But they often fail to mention that a prescription is required.

Such unauthorized online sales of secondhand CPAP devices raise issues about safety and efficacy. For example, because patients require individualized pressure settings for the CPAP device, a secondhand device may deliver pressure that’s too low and is ineffective.

Even the use of secondhand devices that are designed to work without individualized pressure settings can have issues with hygiene.

A research letter published online in the Aug. 8, 2016, JAMA Internal Medicine highlights these concerns. Researchers looked at advertisements for online sales of CPAP appliances in 18 areas in the United States.

Most ads did not describe who had used the device, why it was being sold, or the pressure setting. Used masks were often included, but few indicated the age of the mask or how it had been cleaned.

Only five of 270 postings required a prescription. At an average price of $291, the devices were generally well below retail cost.

But a safer alternative is available through the American Sleep Apnea Association’s CPAP Assistance Program.

It accepts donations of used CPAP devices in good condition and cleans and reprograms them according to the patient’s prescription. The charge for the device is $100.