The Theranos take a look at gave a false miscarriage analysis, witness testifies
Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos Inc., is leaving federal court in San Jose, California on Tuesday, August 31, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
SAN JOSE, CALIF. — The first patient on trial against former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes said the company’s blood test falsely showed she had a miscarriage when in fact she had a healthy pregnancy.
Brittany Gould, who has already miscarried three times, testified Tuesday that she took a Theranos blood test at a Walgreens store in Arizona in September 2014 after learning of her pregnancy.
After reviewing the results of the Theranos hCG test, which measured a pregnancy hormone, Gould’s nurse Audra Zuchman delivered alarming news.
“She told me that your numbers were unfortunately going down and that I had a miscarriage,” said Gould, getting emotional on the stand.
Two Theranos hCG blood tests showed Gould had a miscarriage. However, tests done two and four days later by another lab, Quest Diagnostics, confirmed that Gould was still pregnant. Eventually she had a healthy baby.
“I remember telling Brittany that it looked like this was a non-viable pregnancy that would make it her fourth loss,” Zuchman testified, later adding, “There’s no medical explanation for one Pregnancy loss for the value of 100 back into the thousands or to really move up at all. “
After Zuchman filed a complaint with Theranos, she said she stopped sending patients there. “I was very unsure about the validity of the results and felt uncomfortable as a provider if my patients continued to use them,” she recalled.
Gould testified that she never used a Theranos product again after giving birth. “They cannot provide accurate patient care with inaccurate results,” she said.
Holmes faces a dozen referral fraud charges and conspiracy to commit referral fraud in connection with a so-called multi-million dollar program to defraud investors and patients. She pleaded not guilty.
The former child prodigy of Silicon Valley left Stanford at the age of 19 with the idea of revolutionizing healthcare. With Theranos, she promised to do hundreds of tests with just one prick of blood. In 2015, a series of damning reports by former Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou revealed that blood testing technology was not working.
The government’s closest witnesses include Justin Offen, a PricewaterhouseCoopers employee who will testify over private text messages between Holmes and Balwani. Prosecutors said they received 12,000 messages between the two but plan to show a small portion of the jury.
Cross-examination of a former scientist
Earlier in the day, during the cross-examination of Surekha Gangakhedkar, a longtime senior scientist at Theranos, Holmes ‘defense attorneys brought up a September 2013 email that Sunny Balwani, Therano’s COO, and for a while Holmes’ romantic partner, to her team and Holmes had sent.
The email indicated that Gangakhedkar’s team wasn’t working hard enough.
“Please note that the software team was here until 3:07 am – and is already here at 10 o’clock … “, wrote Balwani and added that the Edison devices” were all sitting idle “.
“In the email, he’s essentially bragging about the depressing hours his team has worked like a badge of honor or something,” said Lance Wade, a Holmes attorney. “He’s trying to make you feel guilty that you didn’t work, right?”
“Yes,” answered Gangakhedkar.
“And he tried to make your whole team feel guilty,” said Wade.
“Yes,” she said.
“Did you know that Mr. Balwani criticized Ms. Holmes for being the manager?” asked Wade.
It was the first time, during a testimony, that Holmes’ lawyers began to blame Balwani.
Gangakhedkar worked in a Theranos laboratory for eight years, reporting directly to Holmes. She quit in 2013 because of increasing concerns about the capabilities of Edison blood testing technology. Gangakhedkar testified that she repeatedly pointed out the inaccuracy issues and concerns to Holmes, but the CEO pushed the roll-out into Walgreens stores.
“In research and development, sometimes you have to fail before you can be successful, right?” asked Wade.
“Yes,” said Gangakhedkar.