Posts Tagged ‘Theranos’

Service of Too Good to be True II

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Photo: depositphotos.com

I’ve followed highlights of the Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos criminal case for a while in newspaper and radio coverage and a few things nag at me:

  • How did high profile investors, partners and board members get duped by a machine and service that never worked?
  • Even though “Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Theranos Inc. founder Elizabeth Holmes and the blood-testing company’s former No. 2 executive,” news focus brushes over life-changing damage done to patients who think they are OK when they’re not.

The charges allege “that they defrauded investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars and also defrauded doctors and patients.” This quote and the one above made up the lead to John Carreyrou’s recent Wall Street Journal article.

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

“The blood test machine her company created doesn’t work — and never has,” Scott Simon wrote recently, capturing an interview with Carreyrou on NPR’s Morning Edition that he hosts. “She raised almost a billion dollars from investors, including Rupert Murdoch, Carlos Slim Helú, and the family of Betsy DeVos, and signed contracts with Walgreens and Safeway, by lying to them.” Carreyrou’s original coverage led to the 2½ year investigation.

He also wrote a book about the scandal, “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” and the test that was expected to revolutionize the industry by costing less and using blood drops from a finger pin prick.

Simon continued quoting Carreyrou: Holmes and “Sunny Balwani, who was the number two of the company, knew as they were rolling out the blood testing services in Walgreens stores in California and Arizona that the blood tests were faulty, and yet they still went ahead with the rollout. And there were, I came across personally in my reporting more than a dozen patients who had health scares because they received bad results from Theranos.”

Photo: pehub.com

This was the most in-depth comment I could find about the patient victims of the scandal. Others mostly referred to them though in his New York Times coverage, Reed Abelson wrote that the so-called tests endangered lives.

So how did Holmes get away with bamboozling five star board members along with all the rest? Carreyrou told Simon “she capitalized on this yearning there was, in Silicon Valley and beyond, to see a woman break through in this man’s world in Silicon Valley.” In addition, he said, the investors based their decision on the Walgreens contract, figuring the company had confirmed the accuracy of the tests. This was a false assumption. Holmes refused to show the equipment claiming she was afraid the competition would discover the secret sauce.

About venture capitalists Abelson shared the prediction of Lakshman Ramamurthy, a former FDA official, now with Foundation Medicine, who “is not certain investors have learned their lesson. Companies like Theranos, which offered little hard evidence that its tests worked to its investors, ‘have their own rules,’ he said. ‘That hasn’t changed. The Silicon Valley hubris remains.’”

According to Ken Sweet’s AP article, referring to Holmes and Balwani: “If convicted, they could face prison sentences that would keep them behind bars for the rest of their lives, and total fines of $2.75 million each.” At one point the company, built on lies, was worth $10 billion +. I wonder if the fine covers the damage to investors sufficiently.

Surely lawsuits will follow should patients prove they were harmed either because they weren’t properly diagnosed or were damaged because they were given harmful medicines they didn’t need. Are you surprised that such high profile businesses, canny investors and high profile board members were deceived by the old “I can’t show you the goods” trick so soon after Bernie Madoff played the same card?

Photo: harp-onthis.com

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