- The Dropout -Did The Edison Ever Make It Into Stores? Theranos Tried To Disrupt Wellness Clinics Everywhere
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes planned to revolutionize blood testing with her invention "The Edison," which proclaimed it could test for many diseases using just a single drop of blood. Of course, as Hulu's true crime series The Dropout explains, The Edison never worked at all — and Holmes built an entire company on a pack of lies. Despite the fact that Holmes' tech never worked, that didn't stop Theranos from putting Wellness Centers in stores, where the company could take the blood of actually patients, before Holmes' house of cards totally collapsed.
On The Dropout, Holmes meets with executives at Walgreens because she's eager to skirt around FDA clearance by marketing directly to customers. These executives include Jay Rosan, who, in the show, is eager to move Walgreens into the future and beat out his competition at CVS. In 2010, when Holmes offers a partnership with Walgreens that will bring these centers to Walgreens stores — where customers can have their blood taken easily and efficiently — Rosan is thrilled to be on the cutting edge. Yet, sadly, he was just another person who fell for Holmes' lie thanks to the promise of progress.
Theranos ultimately opened more than 40 Wellness Centers in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and California. Most were located inside of Walgreens in the Phoenix area. According to a 2013 press release from Walgreens announcing the news, "The new Theranos Wellness Centers will provide Phoenix area consumers with access to less invasive and more affordable clinician-directed lab testing from a blood sample as small as a few drops — 1/1,000 the size of a typical blood draw. The micro-samples, collected by certified phlebotomists or trained Walgreens technicians, are taken from either a tiny finger stick or traditional methods, eliminating the need for large needles and numerous vials of blood typically required for diagnostic lab testing."
Yet did the Edison itself make its way into stores? No. Instead of testing blood on the Edison directly, Theranos had the samples of the blood sent to its central lab for testing — where, apparently, it didn't use its own supposedly innovative blood testing device at all. Instead, Theranos tested the blood it received on tried-and-true devices from the very same established companies it was attempting to disrupt, because its own devices never actually worked.
Walgreens severed its partnership with Theranos in 2016, months after The Wall Street Journal's John Carreyrou published an article detailing Theranos' shady practices. In a press release, Brad Fluegel, Walgreens Senior Vice President and Chief Health Care Commercial Market Development Officer, said, "In light of the voiding of a number of test results, and as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has rejected Theranos’ plan of correction and considers sanctions, we have carefully considered our relationship with Theranos and believe it is in our customers’ best interests to terminate our partnership."
While the promises made by Theranos were certainly appealing, ultimately, they were nothing more than inventions crafted by Holmes. Unlike the Edison, however, Holmes' lies actually worked — at least, for a little while.