Letter to the Editor: Theranos Responds
Brooke Buchanan is vice president of communications at Theranos
Both the headline and much of the content of Roger Parloff’s December 17 story, “How Theranos Misled Me” are inaccurate and — ironically — misleading. Theranos was honest and transparent with Mr. Parloff, and the headline to Mr. Parloff’s story is not supported by the facts or the story itself. Let’s take a look.
After two months of reviewing his notes, there is no statement by Theranos cited in this article that is in any way inaccurate or misleading to support his headline or the statement in his article that he was misled.
Rather, Mr. Parloff states in this story that he made an error: “I then started looking back at my research for the original story—which had been conducted, by then, 17-19 months earlier—to try to reconstruct how I made the error (italics added).” He concludes, “I regret the error.”
Mr. Parloff’s basis for saying he was misled appears to rest on the last part of the following statement in his lengthy original article: “I wrote that the company currently offers 200 – and is ramping up to offer more than 1000 – of the most commonly ordered blood diagnostic tests, all without the need of a syringe.”
The fact is that Theranos was, indeed, offering 200 diagnostic tests at that time, and was ramping up to offer more than 1000 – all via finger-stick. That is true.
Theranos had also developed over 200 assays to run with small volumes from finger-sticks, urine, and other sample types at that time, as we explained to him then. That capability remains today.
Theranos did in fact run certain tests collected through venipuncture on its proprietary technologies at the time of this article.
Theranos never told Mr. Parloff it was running all of its tests without a syringe – neither did he ask and neither was this a secret. Our website has always made clear that was not the case (e.g. “Instead of a huge needle, we can use a tiny finger stick or collect a micro-sample from a venous draw. Theranos website, 2014). Indeed, Theranos has always been clear – in statements on the website dating back to when it announced its retail lab services in 2013, in statements it made to those who asked, and elsewhere – that it has always performed some tests via venipuncture. As acknowledged in Mr. Parloff’s story, Theranos explicitly discussed its use of venipuncture with him.
To be clear, this topic was also not fact checked with Theranos prior to his article. Rather, as he readily states, this sentence was based on assumptions that led to a statement in his article which he is now reading through the lens of other’s faulty reporting – reporting based largely on anonymous and uninformed or misinformed sources with respect to our proprietary technologies and their capabilities.
In his article, Mr. Parloff now says that he feels he simply “assumed” that Theranos had brought up over 200 tests to run in its clinical lab only on finger-sticks. Again, Mr. Parloff never asked anyone at Theranos whether that assumption was correct. Had he done so, we would have corrected that ambiguity. And if the sentence had jumped out at the time as containing an erroneous assumption, Theranos would have corrected it.
Finally, it is important to point out that when Mr. Parloff first met with Theranos about writing the article, in the spring of 2014, it was originally in connection with a patent troll litigation that Theranos had undertaken. It was in that context — of demonstrating Theranos’ technological capabilities and other intellectual property — that Theranos shared data from the development of over 200 proprietary assays on finger-stick/small volumes of samples.
If Mr. Parloff now feels that because of recent reporting he got one sentence in his story from mid-2014 about Theranos wrong, it was not because he was misled, but rather because — as he states — he now feels he made faulty assumptions that he now thinks he should have further clarified. The company has grown and evolved and made many business and regulatory decisions about its operations along the way. At no point did the company mislead him.