The last year-and-a-half has been borderline insanity in terms of CPAP machine availability. For more than a year CPAP machines have been in extremely short supply. There were some weeks in which we didn't have any CPAP machines in stock at all. Of course, this wasn't good for dealers. And it was even worse for patients like you who need a CPAP machine to get a decent night's sleep. So how and why did this happen, and when is the dust going to settle?
You might think the machine shortage started with the Philips recall on June 14, 2001. That's not a bad guess, but it actually started a bit before that. In fact, Philips voluntarily stopped shipping CPAP machines to dealers in March of 2021 because of their concern over the toxic, polyurethane-based sound abatement foam used inside all of their CPAP devices. Few dealers and CPAP users really knew it at the time in March of 2021, but it turns out that the FDA says that Philips and their foam supplier new about the problems with their foam as far back as 2016 and that neither Philips nor the foam supplier took any form of corrective action. I read an article in which it was reported that the FDA claimed that Philips had received 200,000 complaints over the span of several years that included keywords related to the foam problem. By March of 2021, even with most CPAP users and dealers still in the dark, Philips simply stopped shipping CPAP machines to dealers. Their explanation was they were testing their machines with ozone sanitizers and were concerned about the impact of ozone exposure on their foam. But even that wasn't really the beginning of the machine shortages.
For several months before the big recall multiple manufacturers - including Breas and DeVilbiss - were consistently struggling with supply chain issues which caused intermittent factory backorders on their CPAP machines. For DeVilbiss in particular, this was happening off and on for a couple of years before the Philips recall. Then it started happening more and more to Breas - the makers of the Z1 and Z2 travel CPAP machines. We never received an explanation from either manufacturer. All we heard was "shipping delays" or "manufacturing delays." I don't think many people at that point had any idea what was coming. I personally assumed the DeVilbiss issue was due to Drive's purchase of DeVilbiss a few years ago and subsequent differences in management.
Then COVID-19 came along. Now we're in the time frame between March 2020 and March 2021. And with COVID-19 came the closure of factories all over the world, including Asian semi-conductor factories. Cargo ships carrying containers were intermittently shut down. The supply chain crisis officially started, and absolutely everyone started becoming aware of it. My limited knowledge of how CPAP manufacturers order parts to build their CPAP machines is based off of discussions with various sales reps and sales-related managers at different companies. In general, it sounds as if most manufacturers put in orders for parts like semi-conductors a year or more in advance of needing them. When the supply chain crisis hit, those manufacturers were unable to simply call up their Asian suppliers and order more parts. The parts simply weren't available.
Ironically, one of the CPAP manufacturers who struggled the most with backorders initially was temporarily able to become the (somewhat short-lived) hero of the day to CPAP dealers and patients once the Philips recall was announced. DeVilbiss was able to supply their IntelliPAP 2 machines in relatively decent quantities in the summer and fall of 2021, but then they ran out of parts and couldn't obtain any more. DeVilbiss gave up the fight in short order. They saw the writing on the wall. Writing you and I couldn't yet see. Just when it looked like DeVilbiss was set for a resurgence in the industry - filling in the void that Philips had created - their supply chain woes made it impossible to sustain for more than a couple of months. DeVilbiss permanently shut down their sleep therapy division in December 2021 after 35 years of manufacturing. Had DeVilbiss been able to continue to obtain parts to build CPAP machines, they would have become the number-one maker of CPAPs in the industry. A stunning turn of events caused almost entirely by ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns and shipping restrictions from 2020 through the better part of 2021.
One month after Philips announced the recall, APEX permanently discontinued all of their CPAP machine models, without having any new models to replace the old ones. The inquiring mind would ask why. I'll keep it short, but my guess - and it's ONLY a guess - is that APEX knew they couldn't get parts and/or APEX was concerned about their sound abatement foam in their machines and wanted to abandon their models before the FDA could scrutinize them. Pure speculation on my part, but the timing of the discontinuance of no fewer than five CPAP machine models all seemed suspect. If you've followed along closely then you'll know by the end of 2021 three significant manufacturers were supplying precisely ZERO machines to dealers: Philips, DeVilbiss and APEX. Fisher & Paykel, 3B Medical, and Breas were all quoting anywhere from six- to twelve-month backorders, so they were essentially out of the game as well. This left companies like ResMed and Somnetics with their AirSense and Transcend machines, respectively. Somnetics keeping us supplied with CPAP machines was a significant reason we were able to stay in business. (Thank you Somnetics!) At the same time a relative unknown manufacturer by the name of Resvent rose to prominence. Our friends over at Zopec became a distributor for Resvent machines, and Zopec was able to supply us with hundreds of devices. That also was a significant reason we were able to stay in business. (Thank you Zopec!)
I don't know when the supply of CPAP machines will be back to normal. My guess is that we're still at least a year to eighteen months away from any sense of normalcy in this industry. The fact that Somnetics was able to develop and release the brand new Transcend Micro this summer, even with the fallout of COVID-19 lockdowns threatening manufacturers large and small, gives us hope that the dust is going to settle sooner rather than later.
CPAP-Supply.com / SpokaneCPAP.com
CPAP-Supply.com is a leading online retailer of CPAP equipment. Located in Spokane, WA CPAP-Supply.com has been serving thousands of customers around the world since 2001. Founded on a belief that patients are their own best primary care providers, CPAP-Supply.com understands the importance of educating patients and customers on both the effects of and treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. For more information visit CPAP-Supply.com or call toll free 1-888-955-2727