- As diagnostics company Theranos faces storms of criticism, journalist Roger Parloff has written a mea culpa for a prior prominent cover story in Fortune extolling Theranos and its CEO, Elizabeth Holmes.
- In his June 2014 story, Parloff cited figures provided by Theranos saying the company offered 200 diagnostic tests through its proprietary finger-stick method. It later came out, through a Wall Street Journal investigation, that Theranos in fact was performing only around 15 tests using its own methods, while mostly relying on traditional venipuncture and conventional blood analyzers.
- Despite numerous rebuttals and statements from Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, further inconsistencies in Theranos' claims came to light. Cumulatively, this prompted Parloff to describe how Theranos misled him.
Parloff's new piece is a deconstruction of how he, even as an experienced journalist, missed the clues that might have caused him to dig further. He noted in his article,how Theranos stayed on message regarding the use of diagnostic 'micro-samples,' and 'hammered home' its proprietary advantages.
In interviews with Holmes, Parloff was led to believe the small blood draws were all being processed through Theranos' own analyzers. He failed to follow up on reports Theranos clinics were using traditional venipuncture, assured by Holmes this was part of the company scaling up.
Parloff, along with the rest of the biopharma community, watched as Theranos's deals fell apart and the stated number of tests the company claimed it could perform with its finger-stick method and nanotainers dropped from the hundreds to the single digits.
Parloff conceded he failed to investigate further despite the "opaque" quality of the responses he continually received when pressing Theranos further on their claims. The article paints a picture of a company and CEO skilled at pushing the strength of its seemingly ground-breaking ideas through any skepticism.