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Notebook: FDA warns against self-prescribed oxygen

Notebook: FDA warns against self-prescribed oxygen

WASHINGTON – A consumer warning from the Food and Drug Administration urging against using oxygen concentrators without a prescription has resulted in some interesting calls for HME providers. 

Portable Oxygen Solutions, an online provider of POCs and accessories, saw an uptick last March in people wanting to buy POCs for themselves or family members, says Todd Flesch, co-founder of the Charlotte, N.C.-based company. 

“On calls, when we explained that they needed an oxygen prescription from a doctor in order to purchase one from us, the majority of these folks were surprised to learn that,” he said. “They did not understand why they would need a prescription.” 

In its warning, posted in late 2020, the FDA stated that giving yourself oxygen could do more harm than good, such as getting too much or too little oxygen. 

Provider Irene Magee hasn’t had people looking to buy POCs without a prescription, but since the advent of online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, it’s not uncommon for people to buy equipment and then learn they need professional help with it, she says. 

“What we see is people get the concentrator online and then they want us to be their 24/7 emergency service,” said Magee, vice president and director of Green Island, N.Y.-based Northeast Home Medical Equipment. “We’re not playing with someone else’s equipment. Those scenarios have happened all along.” 

With COVID fears keeping people from visiting doctors’ offices and hospitals, it’s not surprising people are seeking to take health care matters into their own hands, says provider Jason Jones. 

“We are seeing with pulse oximeters and spirometers that everybody in town wants one,” said Jones, president of Jones Medical Supply in Troy, Ala. “We’ll sell those to whoever wants one. There’s not a whole lot to learn and you can’t hurt yourself like you can on oxygen concentrator.” 


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