Twitter: 'Wild West' of CPAP

Thursday, January 13, 2011

YARMOUTH, Maine - Twitter and other social networking sites can provide a useful forum for health information, but users should take it all with a grain of salt, say CPAP providers.

"It's really easy for someone to go out and say anything they want to say about CPAP and a lot of what they say is wrong," said Steve Gardner, director of marketing for the Sleep Wellness Institute. "I've seen some wild claims."

As a provider and sleep apnea sufferer himself, Gardner is careful about what he tweets, but he says that is not true of other posts he has seen.

Other providers agree.

"We've seen everything out there," said Jodie Cocke, COO of, which in January planned a live Q&A for CPAP users. "There are new procedures and new drugs that are claiming to take care of this or that. A lot of the theories are great, but it's highly unlikely that there is anything right around the corner."

There are also tweets from people hawking "questionable" products.

"I am always concerned when I see 'snore sprays' or similarly questionable products advertised," said Johnny Goodman, co-founder and general manager of online provider "I think this is an area where legitimate offline and online providers (selling) effective medical products share common ground."

The ease of tweeting and re-tweeting posts can spread as much disinformation as useful tips, say providers.

"You have to take it with a grain of salt," said Ed Grandi, executive director of the American Sleep Apnea Association. "There are some good things and a lot of junk ,and sometimes I see the same garbage again and again."

Like with the Internet, Twitter will have a "Wild West" phase as people get better at weeding out the junk, said Goodman.

"Eventually, people will become better at the medium and natural vetting processes will emerge," he said. "This will not prevent all (people) from taking in bad information and acting on it without due consideration, but neither will anything else, including additional regulations. You can't outlaw foolishness."