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


PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. (WMTV) – A Sauk County woman with terminal cancer joins a lawsuit alleging that the very machine recommended by doctors may have caused the cancer.

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

Since 2008, Miller said she’s been through different models of the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine known as 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 use the machine religiously,” she said.

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

The company suggested that around 2.6 million devices in the United States are known to be affected, according to a March press release.

In July 2021, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cited over 1,200 complaints and over 100 injuries. The agency called it a Class 1 recall, the “most serious” category for recalls, saying use of these devices can result in serious injury or death.

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

According to the FDA, inhaling or swallowing pieces of foam can pose the following risks:

  • Irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and respiratory tract (respiratory tract)
  • Inflammatory reaction
  • Headache
  • Asthma
  • Toxic or carcinogenic effects on organs, such as the kidneys and liver

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

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

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

She joins a multi-district litigation with the Texas law firm Houssiere Durant & Houssiere.

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

About 800 plaintiffs signed the litigation created in November, Houssière said. They are suing Philips for potential health risks caused by the recalled products.

“We are investigating this to see how serious a problem these people have. We have a lot of people with cancers of various types in the respiratory system, and they are very worried,” Houssière said.

With plans to file hundreds of lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Houssiere also plans to appear in court within the next two months to explain how the recalled devices work and what their problem is.

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

He referred to a recent press release, which cited an independent analysis published in December. The results indicate that there was no statistically significant difference in cancer incidence between patients who used Philips products and those who used other products.

The Philips spokesperson also wrote that the company was conducting its own tests.

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

“I may not be around to see any of this,” Miller said, waiting for his own lawsuit to be filed against Philips. “But at least my family and other families can benefit from it and let them live an easier life knowing that it could have taken their loved ones.”

Sauk City’s Antique Tap plans to hold a Poker Run benefit for Miller on June 25, complete with a meat raffle, live music and food trucks.

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

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

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