CPAP outside the box

Sunday, April 30, 2006

CHATSWORTH, Calif. - Competitors may downplay Hoffman Laboratories' new battery powered BreatheX CPAP, but most everyone agrees that when it comes to design, this product pushes the aesthetic envelope.
"It's novel and a different way of doing things, but will it pan out in the end? Who knows?" said Peter Farrell, CEO of ResMed, a market leader in developing products for sleep disordered breathing.
The early reception for the BreatheX, which weighs a little over three pounds and looks more like a stylish neck pillow than a blower in a box, has been phenomenal, said Dennis Nasto, Hoffman's vice president of sales and marketing. The unit's non-clinical appearance, he added, has generated tremendous appeal.
"The reaction from patients who have used it and respiratory therapists who have looked at it is over-the-top excited, and sleep doctors all want a demo in their labs," Nasto said.
Unlike a traditional CPAP, the BreatheX is battery-powered chord would get in the way) and can be worn by the patient or laid on the bed next to him. Rather than being tethered to a six-foot hose, BreatheX users connect to the motor by either eight- or 21-inch tubing. The unit can be titrated for patients requiring 5 to 12 centimeters of pressure, and a fully-charged battery provides most patients with two nights sleep.
While some industry watchers speculate that patients will desire the BreatheX mostly for travel--camping or boating, for example--Nasto believes it also could serve many people's primary CPAP needs and improve compliance.
"The mask is key to compliance, but what we are discovering is that a lot of people who need CPAP don't even get a chance to be complaint because they are turned off by the box with the six-foot hose concept," he said. "If you need a CPAP and you could have this box with this hose or have this little pillow thing, we think some of those people will pick the pillow."
Tim Aldridge, president of Apnix in Houston, runs 16 sleep labs and said he's looking forward to putting some BreatheX units in the field to see how they perform.
"I see most people using this as a second machine rather than as a main machine," he said. "I think they'll have a base machine at home and use this when traveling. But I could be wrong--people could want to use it all the time."
Because the BreatheX is portable and simple to use, Aldridge said, he expects it to appeal to long-haul truckers and other people who travel a lot.
Hoffman's founder, Les Hoffman, sold Servo Magnetics to ResMed in 2002. Servo built and designed CPAP motors. Several former top ResMed execs work with Hoffman, and that experience impresses Diana Guth, owner of Home Respiratory Care in Los Angeles.
"It's not like they are fresh out," she said. "They have built machines. Now they are doing it for themselves."
Farrell and others have questions about the BreatheX's lack of humidification and limited pressure settings and say it still must prove itself in the field. Nevertheless, they applaud Hoffman's innovation and initiative.
"It looks good on paper, but it is not a new concept," Farrell said. "We've talked about having a motor in the headgear or a motor in the mask. What's new is they got off their backside and did it."