‘The Dropout’ Fact Check: Did Theranos Give People Faulty Medical Test Results?

If you just started watching the new Elizabeth Holmes-inspired drama The Dropout, you probably have a lot of questions right now. First, how the heck did all this actually happen, and second, how bad was it in real life? As a person who kept up with the Theranos scandal to a certain degree, I knew that the company, which was sold to investors on the premise that it would revolutionize blood testing in medicine, eventually fell apart. And I was under the impression it was because the technology never worked the way it was supposed to. I wasn’t aware that real people got inaccurate blood test results as a result of that bad technology. That was news to me. But while the show is based on real life, it is technically fictional. So will that be included in the show, and if it is, will that be based on real life? Here’s what we know.

People testified that Theranos devices gave them false medical results.

In the trial against Holmes in 2021, three different people gave testimonies about allegedly getting false medical results from Theranos devices. One woman alleged she received a result that indicated she was having a miscarriage when her pregnancy was perfectly healthy, according to two blood tests she did through a different lab after getting the Theranos diagnosis. Another woman alleged that a Theranos test misdiagnosed her as having HIV antibodies, but she took two tests after that through different labs where she tested negative for HIV both times. A third person, a man, alleged that a 2015 blood test he’d taken through Theranos gave him inaccurate results. The test told him that his blood wasn’t clotting like normal, and he stopped taking his blood thinners as a result of the false diagnosis.

One of the above patients also testified that she called Theranos to try to ask about her results and when she got someone from customer service on the phone, they told her they “couldn’t transfer me and that was about it.” She couldn’t get a real doctor or scientist on the phone.

Was Holmes found guilty?

She was found guilty on “three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud by lying to investors to raise money for her company,” according to The New York Times, but she was found not guilty on four counts related to defrauding patients. So basically, she wasn’t found guilty for the inaccurate blood test results, but she was found guilty for other things, and it is likely that she will serve jail time because of it.

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