Walgreens assesses relationship with Theranos

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DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens is mulling its next steps in its partnership with clinical lab testing provider Theranos Inc., whose technology has come under fire in recent media reports.

The Theranos service enables consumers to receive clinician-directed lab testing from a small blood sample taken via finger stick or a micro-sample taken from traditional methods. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company’s technology has been seen as a potential breakthrough in lab testing because it would eliminate the need for larger needles and numerous vials of blood as required for most diagnostic lab tests — as well as provide results much faster and at a significantly lower cost.

Under a partnership announced by Walgreens and Theranos in 2013, plans called for Theranos Wellness Centers to be rolled out to Walgreens stores nationwide. Thus far, Theranos centers have been opened at 40 Walgreens stores in the Phoenix market following the opening of the first center in September 2013 at Walgreens store in Palo Alto.

“With the completion of our Phoenix rollout that was part of our current agreement with Theranos, we are currently in discussions about the next phase of our relationship,” Walgreens spokesman Jim Cohn said Monday in an emailed statement. “Plans to open more Theranos Wellness Centers are dependent upon both companies’ ability to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement.”

Theranos has come under scrutiny in the wake of an Oct. 15 Wall Street Journal article that said Theranos isn’t using its Edison lab device for most tests — instead employing traditional lab testing methods — and questions have been raised about the technology’s accuracy. Late last week, the Journal also reported that Walgreens isn’t opening new Theranos Wellness Centers because of questions about the technology.

Walgreens spokesman Cohn declined to comment on the Journal article. However, when asked if the drug chain has suspended the rollout of the Theranos centers at its stores, he said that’s not the case.

“We’ve been evaluating next steps and are currently in discussions about the next phase of our relationship,” Cohn stated via email. He declined to comment about the terms of Walgreens’ agreement with Theranos.

In a statement released on Oct. 15, Theranos called the Journal’s article inaccurate. The company said it has voluntarily submitted all of its tests for review by the Food and Drug Administration, received its first FDA clearance this summer based on its proprietary systems, and has made nearly 130 pre-submissions to FDA for tests run on its proprietary technology.

“Theranos’ products and services have proven accurate and reliable for tens of thousands of satisfied customers through millions of tests and experiences and in ongoing review by our various regulators. Our focus remains on ensuring high-quality, real-time, actionable information to improve diagnosis and treatment decisions,” Theranos stated.

The company added that it’s working to “reinvent the lab experience by providing high-quality tests faster, cheaper and more conveniently, requiring less blood and causing less patient discomfort than ever before.”

“We lead the industry in transparency and quality, have advocated for FDA regulation of lab tests, for the reduction of Medicare and Medicaid rates, and for transparency in pricing,” Theranos said in its statement. “We’ve partnered with health care leaders, including the Cleveland Clinic, Capital BlueCross and AmeriHealth Caritas. We also have advocated for direct access to lab testing, which will drive price transparency and lower the cost of testing in response to consumer demand. This issue is at the heart of the current movement towards individual engagement and preventive health care.”


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