Subscribe to Newsletter
Outside the Lab Profession, Screening and monitoring, Clinical care, Laboratory management, Point of care testing

Fingerprick Fraud

Much like the rest of the world, pathologists have been watching with fascination as the story of direct-to-consumer testing company Theranos unfolds. From the debut of its revolutionary “Edison machine” technology – purportedly providing instant diagnoses from a single drop of blood – to the discovery that not all was as it seemed, Theranos has been making headlines ever since it first caught the public’s eye in 2013, a decade after its launch. But all that glitters is not diagnostic gold, and in 2015, the Wall Street Journal broke a story announcing that the company’s flagship technology wasn’t being used for most of its tests – and that when it was used, the results might be inaccurate (1).

Since then, the Theranos rollercoaster has been heading steadily downward. Multiple organizations, including the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, found fault with the company’s methods and technologies. Investors and corporate partners separated themselves from Theranos. But now, the saga is officially at an end – at least for company founder Elizabeth Holmes, who has admitted that the proprietary Edison technology doesn’t work, that it was used for only 12 of the more than 200 test types offered to consumers, and that the results from those machines were thrown out. In the wake of this announcement, former partner Walgreens (an American drug retailer) has officially terminated its relationship with Theranos and shut down its on-site testing services (2).

Is this the last hurrah for the company? Officially, Theranos remains “fully committed to our mission to provide patients access to affordable health information and look forward to continuing to serve customers… (3)” But with no proprietary technology, no advantages over less expensive providers, and a criminal investigation underway by federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission (4), the future looks bleak – not just for Theranos, but for the investors and patients who may have misplaced their trust.

Receive content, products, events as well as relevant industry updates from The Pathologist and its sponsors.
Stay up to date with our other newsletters and sponsors information, tailored specifically to the fields you are interested in

When you click “Subscribe” we will email you a link, which you must click to verify the email address above and activate your subscription. If you do not receive this email, please contact us at [email protected].
If you wish to unsubscribe, you can update your preferences at any point.

  1. J Carreyrou, “Hot startup Theranos has struggled with its blood-test technology”, (2015). Available at: Accessed June 13, 2016.
  2. M Siconolfi, “Walgreen terminates partnership with blood-testing firm Theranos”, (2016). Available at: Accessed June 13, 2016.
  3. B Buchanan, “Statement from Theranos” (2016). Available at: Accessed June 13, 2016.
  4. R Stross, “Don’t blame Silicon Valley for Theranos”, (2016). Available at: Accessed June 13, 2016.
About the Author
Michael Schubert

While obtaining degrees in biology from the University of Alberta and biochemistry from Penn State College of Medicine, I worked as a freelance science and medical writer. I was able to hone my skills in research, presentation and scientific writing by assembling grants and journal articles, speaking at international conferences, and consulting on topics ranging from medical education to comic book science. As much as I’ve enjoyed designing new bacteria and plausible superheroes, though, I’m more pleased than ever to be at Texere, using my writing and editing skills to create great content for a professional audience.

Register to The Pathologist

Register to access our FREE online portfolio, request the magazine in print and manage your preferences.

You will benefit from:
  • Unlimited access to ALL articles
  • News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts
  • Receive print (and PDF) copies of The Pathologist magazine