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Sauk Co. woman with terminal cancer joins lawsuit against CPAP maker

Attorney says roughly 800 claimants are suing Philips for potential health risks caused by recalled products.
A Sauk County woman with terminal cancer is joining a lawsuit alleging the very machine recommended by doctors may have caused cancer.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 10:11 PM CDT|Updated: May. 5, 2022 at 10:24 PM CDT
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PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. (WMTV) - A Sauk County woman with terminal cancer is joining a lawsuit alleging the very machine recommended by doctors may have caused cancer.

“At least I could pinpoint it to something because this cancer doesn’t even run in my family,” Angie Miller said.

Since 2008, Miller said she has gone through different models of the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine known as the DreamStation. They include the one voluntarily recalled by Philips Respironics on June 14, 2021.

“I used it every night. I have bad sleep apnea, and I use the machine religiously,” she said.

The recall affects 20 kinds of CPAP, BiPAP and ventilator devices made between 2009 and last year.

The company suggested roughly 2.6 million devices in the U.S. are known to be affected, according to a March press release.

As of July 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cited more than 1,200 complaints and more than 100 injuries. The agency has labeled it a Class 1 recall, “the most serious” category for recalls, saying use of these devices may cause serious injuries or death.

The FDA described potential health risks stemming from a foam (called PE-PUR, or polyester-based polyurethane foam) found in recalled devices. It is meant to reduce sound and vibration, but the FDA wrote it could break down, enter the device’s air tubes and get swallowed.

According to the FDA, inhaling or swallowing pieces of foam may risk the following:

  • Irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, and respiratory tract (airway)
  • Inflammatory response
  • Headache
  • Asthma
  • Toxic or cancer-causing effects to organs, such as kidneys and liver

Another potential issue is that the foam can release “certain dangerous chemicals,” the FDA wrote, and be inhaled by the user.

Roughly a year before the recall, in July 2020, Miller was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, or bile duct cancer. She is going through chemotherapy with the disease now in stage four.

Miller said she was also diagnosed with asthma after breathing problems began in August 2016.

She is joining a multi-district litigation with Texas-based law firm Houssiere Durant & Houssiere.

“We have, I think, about 75 people that are dying of cancer or have died of cancer that have used this machine,” Charles Houssiere, a trial lawyer in the case, said.

Roughly 800 claimants have signed on to the litigation created in November, Houssiere said. They’re suing Philips for potential health risks caused by the recalled products.

“We’re investigating that to see how serious of a problem these people are having. We have a lot of people with cancer of various types in the respiratory system, and they’re very concerned,” Houssiere said.

With plans to file hundreds of suits in Pennsylvania, Houssiere also plans to appear before the court in the next two months to explain how the recalled devices work and what the problem with it is.

In response to an interview request, a Philips spokesperson wrote back to NBC15 Investigates.

He pointed to a recent press release, which cited an independent analysis published in December. The findings indicate there was no statistically significant difference of cancer occurrence among patients who used Philips products versus patients who used other products.

The Philips spokesperson also wrote the company is conducting tests of its own.

According to the press release, Philips said it has shipped more than 650,000 replacement devices to U.S. customers so far. Miller is among them and now uses a DreamStation 2.

“I may not be around to see anything from this,” Miller said, waiting for her own suit to be filed against Philips. “But at least my family and other families can benefit and just let them live an easier life knowing that this could’ve possibly taken their loved ones.”

The Antique Tap in Sauk City plans to host a Poker Run benefit for Miller on June 25, featuring a meat raffle, live music and food trucks.

Users of recalled products can register their devices and find the latest information on this Philips website.

The FDA has also published a site for frequently asked questions about the recall.

If you have a tip you want us to investigate, email investigates@nbc15.com.

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