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Theranos Attacks Wall Street Journal (Again) in a Rebuttal You'll Need a Medical Degree to Understand

The company gets deep into the weeds of blood-testing technology and goes on at length about the nature of proficiency testing in an attempt to prove the publication wrong.

Gilbert Carrasquillo / Getty

Theranos issued a public rebuttal to the Wall Street Journal’s investigation raising questions about the accuracy of the Palo Alto startup’s blood-testing technology that you may need several years of medical school to understand.

The company, which set out to revolutionize the blood-testing industry by performing tests using a tiny vial of blood, repeats many of the charges Chief Executive Elizabeth Holmes leveled Wednesday when she took the stage at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJDLive conference to argue that the paper got many things wrong.

Theranos doubles down on that approach this morning, with bulleted responses under the heading “What the Reporter Got Wrong.” It’s similar to the strategy Amazon spokesman Jay Carney employed earlier this week in seeking to take the air out of a New York Times investigation of working conditions at the online retailer.

The Wall Street Journal issued a statement Wednesday saying it stands by the accuracy of its reporting on the company, which has attracted $400 million in investments, giving it a $9 billion valuation.

Theranos starts off its rebuttal by citing tens of thousands of “satisfied customers” who’ve issued testimonials, as though these individuals could assess the accuracy of the test results. The company notes that Theranos’ finger-stick test for herpes won FDA approval — a fact that’s not in dispute.

The company gets deep into the weeds of blood-testing technology and goes on at length about the nature of proficiency testing. It also claims that “Edison,” the code-name for the proprietary technology at the heart of its new approach to blood testing, is just one of the devices the company uses. All of it has the effect of confounding, rather than clarifying.

Theranos spends much time addressing the Journal’s report that Theranos has stopped collecting blood samples for all but one of its tests as U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials conducted an inspection of its facility and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the main regulator of clinical labs, conducted an audit.

However, the company admits that, after discussions with the FDA, it decided to “temporarily pause” the use of its tiny tubes for all the tests except for herpes until its Nanotainer tubes win regulatory clearance.

Lastly, the company attacks the Wall Street Journal’s use of anonymous former employees, whom it claims “did not understand” its technology, as well as unidentified lab experts. It also sought to discredit Rochelle Gibbons, the widow of a British biochemist who had served on the company’s advisory board, who reportedly confided to his spouse that “nothing is working.” Theranos claims she is a friend of a person the company sued in a patent claim.

“We note that Ms. Holmes sought to challenge the reliability of our sources, but it remains the fact that she doesn’t know from whom the information for our articles was gathered,” the Journal wrote in its statement. “We assure her and our readers that our sources were well positioned to know the information they provided about Theranos, and they were vetted before publication.”

Update: The Wall Street Journal has updated its statement “to reflect the release of additional information by Theranos.” You can read the entire statement here.

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