How Bad Test Results From Theranos Led To Bad Real-Life Consequences For Patients

Image courtesy of Phillip Jeffrey

Something as simple and routine as a blood test can have life-changing consequences, and some patients whose test results from medical startup Theranos were later found to be inaccurate faced stress and worry, had to be re-tested, and made life-altering medical decisions based on wrong information. What did that look like in real life?

It was the Wall Street Journal that broke the story that Theranos wasn’t quite the medical and technological miracle it pretended to be. The paper reported that the company’s machines weren’t as accurate as advertised, and the Customers who were confident in the company’s ability to perform accurate lab tests. After all, Walgreens wouldn’t have partnered with Theranos if there were questions about its tests’ accuracy, right?

Theranos had labs in California and in Arizona, having successfully lobbied in Arizona for direct-to-consumer blood tests, which the company performed alongside tests ordered by doctors.

Here’s one real-life example: a man had blood tests performed by Theranos after heart surgery, and one showed that his blood was taking six times longer than it should to clot. Follow-up tests had varied results. Based on this information, his doctor changed his blood-thinning medication.

It wasn’t until a year later that he learned his test results had been voided along with others from the same period, and the company didn’t issue a revised report until after the Wall Street Journal stepped in. The inaccurate results and change in medication didn’t affect his health, but could have.

Other patients described having blood tests screening for diabetes with varying results, when that test (A1C) measures the average blood glucose level over the last three months. It shouldn’t vary from test to test within a few days, which is what happened, when patients used Theranos and then other labs.

Agony, Alarm and Anger for People Hurt by Theranos’s Botched Blood Tests [Wall Street Journal]

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