CPAP stars on Today

Friday, March 31, 2006

NEW YORK - If you need further proof that the general public has woken up to the dangers of sleep apnea, look no further than the Feb. 28 segment of the Today show, during which Matt Lauer donned a CPAP mask for an audience of millions.
"My brother called me up and said 'Did you see this program? I think I might have sleep apnea,'" said Ron Richard, vice president of strategic marketing for Poway, Calif.-based ResMed, whose S8 Elite and Swift interface mask were featured on the Today segment. "It has a positive impact on increasing awareness and enabling people to get treatment."
A study released by Wachovia Industries last September predicted 15% annual growth for CPAP, but most industry insiders think that's conservative.
"I would look at this right now as a 20-year, 20%-plus growth annual market," said Michael Thomas, president and CEO of Pasadena, Md.-based Sleep Solutions. But Thomas believes a four to six week backlog at most sleep labs is keeping a lid on growth and that's bad for patients.
"They get discouraged," said Thomas. "In today's world, if you want it today, you get it today."
The recent Today Show segment could exacerbate lab bottlenecks, Thomas said. Still, exposure on a popular show like Today can lead to more patient-driven diagnoses--a boon to patients and providers alike.
"We're all battling low diagnosis rates," Thomas said. "Patients will start driving it because TV sounds a little better than seeing it off a Web site or specific company'scommercial."
One thing that even TV couldn't make appear better: Matt Lauer looked as unglamorous in the mask as anyone. However, he probably helped to humanize it.
"I think by him putting it on, it makes it look easy to do," said Richard. "But let's face it. CPAP masks don't look sexy or easy-to-wear, and manufacturers have to do a better job in that area."