Sleep rivals collaborate on physician education

Saturday, October 31, 2009

SAN DIEGO, Ca., and MURRYSVILLE, Pa., - Philips Respironics and ResMed have joined forces and pledged $1 million to help educate primary care physicians about the dangers of obstructive sleep apnea.

"With one in five adults in the U.S. potentially suffering from sleep apnea, and 90% of those undiagnosed, education is critical and ignorance is the main competitor in this marketplace," said JC Kyrillos, ResMed's senior vice president, sales, marketing & clinical education-Americas.

The $1 million will go to two independent primary care educators, Primary Care Network and Pri-Med Institute. The program's goal: conduct 17 seminars around the country and educate 7,200 clinicians about OSA by June 2010. Nearly 2,000 attended the first five sessions held this month.

At a press conference Tuesday to announce their education partnership. ResMed and Respironics officials pointed out that the rise of OSA in the United States is tied closely to the obesity epidemic and other co-morbidities such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

For example, they said, studies show that:

- 26% of the people in the United States are obese, and 77% of those have sleep apnea.

-    - 30% to 80% of cardiovascular disease patients have sleep apnea;

-    - 50% of diabetic patients, particularly Type 2, have sleep apnea.

-    - 86% of patients who are obese and have Type 2 diabetes also have OSA.

-    - 35% of people with hypertension have sleep apnea.

During the press conference, company officials called primary care education critical to diagnosing and treating OSA. That's because, for the most part, medical schools have "not prepared physicians for the challenge of undiagnosed sleep apnea," said Eoghan O'Lionaird, Respironics' senior vice president and general manager-sleep.

As to whether payers might look negatively on efforts that boost OSA awareness, and, in turn, utilization, Kyrllos said he didn't think that would be an issue.

"By treating sleep apnea, you are actually treating the related co-morbidities and, as a result, you will have better healthcare outcomes and lower overall costs," he said. "I think a lot of payers are realizing that."