Walgreens partnered with Silicon Valley blood-testing company Theranos in 2013 without ever testing the technology, reports The Wall Street Journal. Theranos wellness centers are currently in 40 Walgreens stores in Arizona, as part of a deal to put the company's Edison blood-testing equipment in thousands of drugstores around the country. Yet the deal went forward without Walgreens ever checking whether Theranos' test results were accurate. Theranos hasn’t published any data on its technology, and avoids answering any questions about it by claiming they can’t reveal trade secrets.
The report states Walgreens executives feared Theranos would sue for breach of contract if it pulled out of the deal. Throughout the process, officials shrugged off concerns because Walgreens, in search of way to grow its business, didn't want Theranos moving ahead with another drugstore chain. The news is yet another unsettling revelation in the troubled partnership between the well-established Walgreens and a startup whose core tech may be more a product of hype than groundbreaking science.
Theranos' tech wasn't validated by federal authorities for two years after it was deployed
Theranos, founded in 2003, has accumulated a valuation of $9 billion thanks to what the company says is a revolutionary blood-testing method. The Edison was said to be capable of running numerous tests on just a small drop of blood. Yet a series of WSJ reports and follow-up investigations from other media organizations has shown the company's tech to be inaccurate and potentially dangerous for patients. Theranos is now the subject of a class action consumer fraud lawsuit in California, filed after Thernaos voided two years' worth of Edison results because they provided inaccurate data.
Walgreens has publicly distanced itself from Theranos after questions were first raised about the company's test results back in October of last year. Walgreens threatened to terminate the relationship if Theranos could not comply with regulations after federal officials investigated its Newark, CA lab. The investigation found Edison test results often failed to meet Theranos' own accuracy requirements, while unqualified staff were reviewing patient test results.
The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has proposed banning Holmes from working in the blood-testing business for two years. The sanction, one of the most severe the government can impose on a lab, may absolve Walgreens from legal threats if it decides to ultimately cut ties with Theranos, the WSJ reports.