A new, personalized support program for sleep apnea patients

March 18, 2009

National Sleep Day, organized March 18 by the Institut National du Sommeil et de la Vigilance en France, as part of International Sleep Awareness Week, is an opportunity to promote awareness of sleep apnea, a little known disorder which can lead to serious complications. The disorder affects 1.5 million people in France, and 5% of the world’s adult population. Eight out of 10 sleep apneics are unaware of their condition. Untreated sleep apnea multiplies by six the risk of road accidents and coronary accidents and it can lead to numerous other disorders (diabetes, metabolic syndrome, depression, behavioral problems, etc.).

The standard treatment for sleep apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), handled daily and in the patient’s home. Air Liquide is a major global player in this field. In Europe, the Group provides services for 15% of all patients, working alongside their doctors. Air Liquide is strengthening its international position: after recent acquisitions in the Netherlands (Comcare Medical) and Tunisia (Air Separation), it has just opened its first “sleep center” in China, dedicated to the global care management of patients suffering from sleep apnea.

Nearly 250,000 apneics in France have been treated. However, around 20% of new patients stop treatment within the first six months. As a result, ensuring treatment is properly followed is a major public health issue. Air Liquide conducted a clinical study in 2006 through its subsidiary VitalAire, in cooperation with 194 doctors and 674 patients. The study showed the effectiveness of a phone support program for patients, resulting in a significantly higher adherence to treatment (+8 points) and longer machine usage per night (+35 minutes).

For this reason, the Group, with VitalAire, is launching in France a new, personalized support program for sleep apnea patients. Telephone support by nurses, as well as new educational tools (a sleep diary, manual, patient DVD, etc.) created with the help of medical experts, will be proposed to doctors for their apneic patients, in addition to the traditional follow-up home visits by technicians. The aim is to increase patients’ motivation and compliance to make treatment more successful.

Jean-Marc de Royere, Senior Vice-President in charge of the Healthcare World Business Line and a member of the Air Liquide Executive Committee, declared: “Sleep apnea has become a major public health issue. Air Liquide worked from the start, with the best international specialists, at a comprehensive management of this disorder. The goal is to reach the best quality of life for patients at the lowest cost to the community. Key to achieving this is patient compliance.”