Recalled Philips CPAP Machine Caused Prostate Cancer, Lawsuit Alleges

While a number of class action lawsuits have been filed since the recent Philips CPAP recall, seeking medical monitoring and other damages for owners of the sleep apnea machines, a recently filed lawsuit alleges that years of breathing toxic particles released by the sound abatement foam caused a New York man to develop prostate cancer.

The complaint (PDF) was brought by Michael Bowman on September 12 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking damages from Koninklijke Philips and its U.S. subsidiaries as defendants, for selling defective Dreamstation and other CPAP machines for sleep apnea treatment, and unreasonably delaying recalls.

Bowman was prescribed a CPAP machine for his sleep apnea, and purchased a Philips DreamStation device in June 2016, continuing to use the product in a normal and expected manner for years. However, in 2018 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer the lawsuit claims was caused by the CPAP machine and toxic particles released directly into the air pathways.

Philips recalled an estimated 3.5 million CPAP, BiPAP and mechanical ventilators in June 2021, indicating that the polyester-based polyurethane (PE-PUR) sound abatement foam in the machines may breakdown and degrade, releasing black particles and chemicals directly into the lungs of users relying on the breathing machines.

Exposure to the particles and gases released by the CPAP machine PE-PUR foam may increase the risk of cancer, severe respiratory problems and other health complications, leading health experts to recommend that consumers immediately stop using the devices for sleep apnea. However, little information has been provided to consumers about the long-term health risks and side effects linked to the machines.

Bowman’s complaint now joins a growing number of similar Philips CPAP machine recall lawsuits now being pursued in courts nationwide, alleging that the manufacturer delayed recalling the defective products or warning consumers while it worked to develop a second-generation DreamStation 2, which was released weeks before the company recalled Philips CPAP machines with the PE-PUR foam.

“Defendants have long known that the polyester-based polyurethane (PE-PUR) sound-abatement foam in Defendants’ CPAP, BiPAP, and mechanical ventilator devices has a tendency to release toxic and carcinogenic microparticles that can be inhaled by users like Plaintiff, causing serious injury or death,” the lawsuit notes. “Plaintiff Michael Bowman has suffered from unnecessary pain, debilitation, hospitalization, and the development of prostate cancer because Defendants defectively designed the Device and failed to adequately warn of the dangers of the Device.”

In the wake of the recall, Philips did not provide replacement CPAP machines or offer to immediately repair the PE-PUR foam problems. The company also did not provide users the funds to buy a new CPAP machine, leaving them without much-needed breathing assistance and with rising fear of using the devices they still had. It was not until last week that Philips announced a replacement plan, which may take up to a year to complete.

On June 30, the FDA issued a safety communication, urging consumers who were not relying on the devices for life-sustaining therapy to immediately stop using the recalled sleep apnea machines and contact their doctors to decide on alternative treatments for the condition.

Koninklijke Philips, N.V. generated over $23 billion in revenue last year, and is expected to face massive liability from lawsuits and CPAP machine settlements over the next few years. In an earnings report issued prior to announcing the recall, the company advised investors it had taken a provision of about $295 million to cover the costs of the recall, which will likely only cover a small fraction of the compensation and damages the company will ultimately be required to pay.

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