Elizabeth Holmes, the youngest female self-made billionaire founder of Theranos in 2003, a company that promised to be able to obtain 30 different health measures like cholesterol and hemoglobin from a drop of blood at a cost 50% less than the standard Medicare reimbursement rates ($98 billion in savings over a decade), is now worth nothing and has been banned from the field of blood analysis.
Holmes described a “nanotainer” that would hold the blood sample. [Wired.com] The whole story is so bizarre there is already a movie in the works with Jennifer Lawrence starring as Holmes. [Vanity Fair]
Holmes lectured the world on the future of healthcare. She turned out to be the “front man” for an unproven technology. She was given a stage she didn’t deserve. For example, she spoke at the closing session of the Clinton Global Initiative in 2015 in New York City. She gave a TED talk. She was interviewed by Forbes Magazine.
With a net worth (on paper only) of $4.5 billion, and a board of directors that included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and two former senators who could get the government contracts the company would need, she talked with false confidence. How could she fail with $400 million of capital and connections like that?
In her own deluded self-importance, she talks on video about when she was young and envisioned invention of a time machine. She settled for a high-tech blood-testing machine she calls Edison.
She lectured others even though she was a Stanford drop out. [Stanford Graduate School of Business]
She talked about the pain and anguish of having to have needles stuck in their veins to obtain a blood test. She used the public’s widespread fear of needles to gain a contract with 8000 WalGreen stores. Blood testing was going to be on demand, without a doctor’s orders. The public would take charge of their own health. She was now an authority who would usher America into a new era in healthcare.
She became an oracle. Others listened in fascination and took notes. She was politically correct – female, young, billionaire like Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg, smart enough she didn’t need a college degree like Steve Jobs who was also a college drop out.
She wasn’t totally fluff. She has her name on a number of patents. [Justia] When asked why Theranos hadn’t published its technology for examination, the answer was to keep it under wraps from competitors. [Tech Insider] She kept talking until she ran out of answers.
The Theranos story is an example of the many charades in modern medicine that must to come to an end. Modern medicine itself is a false prop. Ivan Illich talked about it in his 1975 book MEDICAL NEMESIS, who said “the medical establishment has become a major threat to health.” This dated text ought to be required reading for every medical school student.
“We are the only lab that is actually focused on leading with transparency,” said Holmes to a Forbes Magazine reporter. When questioned about doubts over Theranos’ technology, she adroitly talks about gaining clearance from the FDA. Theranos’ 510k FDA application is published online. [AccessFDA.gov] As late as July 2015 the FDA had granted its second approval of a blood test to Theranos. [Fortune] But it turns out, Theranos used a loophole in FDA regulations to start marketing their test. The whole fiasco actually went to the halls of Congress. [The Verge]
The sad aspect of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is that it is a caricature of what America has now become.