MILWAUKEE — Thousands of sleep apnea sufferers have joined class-action lawsuits against health tech company Philips and now the legal process is moving forward. In mid-June, Philips recalled three to four million of its breathing products including the popular Dreamstation CPAP machine, citing health risks from the noise-canceling foam inside.
In a third-quarter earnings call this week, the CEO of Philips, Frans van Houten, told investors while sales have slipped, the global company's focus right now is on the patients and corrective actions following the recall.
Tom Wilson of Neenah feels the global company could be doing more to keep consumers informed.
Wilson started using a CPAP machine about three-and-a-half years ago. He told the I-Team, once he learned about the recall, he stopped using his Dreamstation and bought another CPAP machine from a competitor.
"I don't believe they're doing everything in their power to speed up the recall. One thing they could have done is to reimburse people who bought competitor machines," said Wilson.
Philips has said it may take up to 12 months before users get a repair kit or replacement. Consumer complaints continue to pile up.
"We're getting inundated with calls every day. Sometimes as much as a hundred calls a day from people who have suffered from injuries that they believe are related to using their CPAP machine," said Dena Young, Senior Counsel for Berger Montague.
Young's law firm reports at last count, attorneys across the country have filed 85 class-action lawsuits against the health tech giant, and Young said there have been 42 individual products liability filed against Philips. She told the I-Team all the cases in federal court are being transferred to a judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
"It's really in her hands at this point. What typically happens at this early juncture is she will decide how she wants the leadership in the case to be structured," Young explained.
In the earnings call this week, Frans van Houten stated the repair and replacement program is moving along.
"We have produced more than 750,000 units of repair kits and replacement devices to date," he said.
Click hereto listen to the third quarter earnings call.
The company told investors its total global sales have dropped about 7.6% from July to September, but it's seeing growth in other sectors besides the sleep and respiratory care business.
All the while, sleep apnea sufferers are seeking support. Wilson is an admin for one of the handful of CPAP recall Facebook groups where members are sharing whatever information they can gather. They want the company to be more transparent.
"At least have some kind of weekly or monthly communication in terms of specific next steps rather than just saying it may take up to a year," Wilson said.
"I just urge everyone to speak with their doctor, whoever prescribed their CPAP or their BiPAP, and make sure the doctor says it's safe to stop. If it's not safe to stop, you need to immediately find a replacement," said Young.