If you’ve recently been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you’ve probably been told that a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device is the “gold standard” for treating OSA.
But do you need a prescription in order to get one? This is something that many people are asking, and the answers can be somewhat confusing.
In a nutshell, yes, you do need a prescription if you want to get a CPAP machine.
This is because you need to have a proper sleep apnea diagnosis. This involves a sleep study to see if the condition exists, and if so, its severity (and, ideally, what the underlying cause of your sleep apnea is).
Once it has been determined that you have OSA, the proper therapy can be recommended, and then you will receive a prescription for a CPAP machine. Once you have a prescription, you can get the equipment needed to start treating the problem and sleeping better at night.
Why Do You Need a Prescription?
Getting the right form of treatment isn’t the only reason why you need a prescription for a CPAP machine. Medical devices, under Federal law, are put into three classes: Class I, Class II, and Class III by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
These classes are created based on risks of the devices, and the controls needed in order to insure they are safe and effective. CPAP machines are considered Class II, and therefore, you are required to have a prescription before you can start using one. Even if you are using online sites, you are still required to show a prescription before your order can be fulfilled.
Other reasons why you need to have a prescription include:
- PRESSURE SETTINGS
- MIXED SLEEP APNEA
If you are using your medical insurance to pay for the device, you will need a prescription or insurance will not cover the cost.
Pressure settings have been set based on sleep study results, and only a prescription can give the proper settings to be used.
Some sleep apnea patients end up with mixed sleep apnea, which causes events after therapy has begun. These patients often need a different type of machine, such as an ASV or a BiPAP machine.
How to Get a CPAP Prescription
Before you can get a CPAP prescription, you will need to take part in a sleep study. This is necessary to diagnose sleep apnea, and the degree of the sleep apnea. You can attend a sleep study at a sleep clinic, or opt for an unattended sleep study in your home.
If you opt for the at-home sleep apnea test, you will not be able to get a prescription for a CPAP machine, but you will receive a prescription for an APAP machine, which has many different pressures. This is because the test results are much less detailed than those from a study that has been done with a medical professional in attendance at a sleep center.
We recommend that if it is possible, take advantage of the sleep study at a real sleep center. The more detailed the results, the easier it is going to be for the doctor to prescribe just the right pressure for CPAP therapy.
Once the sleep study is complete and the results are in, the sleep doctor can then either forward the prescription to your family doctor, or to another medical professional who will then issue it to you. Health professionals who can write CPAP prescriptions include:
Any medical doctor can fill out a prescription for one of these devices. But, in order to get the right therapy, it is best to have the prescription written or recommended by a board-certified sleep specialist.
There is one way to buy a CPAP without a doctor. If you already have a prescription, and nothing has changed, you can buy a replacement CPAP without having to get a brand new prescription. Most of these prescriptions are lifetime prescriptions, so you can get a new device any time you need it.
You can also buy many of the accessories you need for the CPAP device without a prescription. These include:
If you already have been for the testing, you can get your doctor or other medical professional to give you a CPAP prescription online.
Remember, you must already meet all of the criteria, and the prescription must be recommended by the sleep doctor. In order to get your CPAP device, your prescription will need to include the following:
- Physician contact info
- Physician signature
- Full name of patient
- Prescription duration
- Type of machine
- Machine pressure setting
- Whether a humidifier is to be included
- Type of mask/delivery system (patient is usually able to choose the mask they find the most comfortable)
- Schedule for replacing parts and accessories
Paying for Your CPAP Machine
You have a few options available when it comes to paying for your CPAP machine. If you have medical insurance, this is obviously the first, and best option. Your coverage may pay for part of, or even all of this medical device.
Without a prescription, you won’t be able to get coverage. If you do not have insurance, you also have the option to pay for the device yourself. Some companies may also offer other payment options if you do not have insurance.
Buy From a Reliable Source
When it comes to your health, you can never be too careful. Always make sure that you are buying any medical devices, including a CPAP machine, from a retailer that is certified by their State Board of Pharmacy.
If you are buying online, ask them to send you a copy of their certification before via email. All legitimate retailers will offer a toll-free number to call if you have any questions.
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend that you use a CPAP device. Make sure that you have a sleep study done in order to get the right diagnosis, and so the doctor can know what pressure to prescribe.
Once you have your prescription, you can buy the device from the retailer of your choice, as long as they are certified.