Walgreens was caught in the middle of Theranos’ scam after it was used as an avenue to reach more patients across the country back in the thriving days of the blood-testing start-up.
Walgreens’ former CFO Wade Miquelon took the stand on Wednesday for his first full-day testimony at the trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes.
According to Miquelon, Theranos made a great first impression with its so-called revolutionary blood-testing technology which is expected to change the medical industry.
The technology was pitched to have the capability of delivering blood test results from a tiny drop in just 30 seconds.
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Walgreens bought the idea and decided to invest about US$140 million into the business — $40 million of which could be converted to equity.
This further cemented Walgreens as Theranos’ key partner which would help deliver walk-in blood test centers for people across the country.
In fact, Walgreens thought of Theranos as a potentially lucrative partner and about 40 blood in-store testing centers were set up.
Soon after it was found out that Theranos was, in fact, making use of standard blood testing mechanisms, Walgreens sued its former partner seeking to regain its US$140 million.
“My understanding is, the blood would be tested on the [Theranos] Edison device,” Miquelon said, adding later: “My understanding was that the base level testing would be able to do 96 percent of the testing done at labs.”
According to Miquelon, he said that he had no knowledge of the fact that Theranos was conducting tests on modified third-party devices as prosecutors alleged.
It was also found out that Theranos often dilute the tiny drops of blood gotten from patients since standard test methods often require a larger quantity of blood before the machines can perform the test. This allegedly led to wrong blood test results.
Elizabeth Holmes, the face of the company is now on trial for misleading patients and investors about his former company’s capabilities. She is in fact charged with a dozen counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
She has pleaded not guilty.
“This was one of the most exciting companies that we had seen, maybe not just in lab but in general,” Miquelon said in testimony on Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Another person who testified on the case is former Safeway CEO Steven Burd who said he was lured in by Holme’s highflying promises but eventually got frustrated by her company’s inability to meet up with deadlines and persistent delays.
Burd’s testimony concluded Tuesday, and Miquelon’s, which began shortly after, was expected to stretch through much of the day Wednesday.
In the documents offered by the prosecutors were plans between Walgreens and Theranos to slowly expand until it is able to achieve a national rollout.
Internal presentations to Walgreens reflected Theranos’s promise of the “Lowest cost, highest quality testing from a finger-stick,” as opposed to from a vein.
The Theranos method required “99.9 percent less blood,” according to an internal presentation shown by prosecutors. It also promised a “State of the art result turnaround” of 4 to 24 hours.
The documents also showed launch plans for Walgreen stores with the first launched back in 2012 and then the second in early-to-mid 2013 with the lab promising test results in just 30 minutes or even less. Then there were Theranos’s “Minilabs” in all Walgreens stores.
In cross examination of Miquelon on Wednesday afternoon, an attorney for Holmes sought to show that the partnership between Theranos and Walgreens evolved, including an agreement in the summer of 2012 that would change the business model. Testing would not be done in stores and would instead be handled off-site, eliminating the capacity to produce a result within 15 to 30 minutes.
Miquelon agreed with the Holmes attorney’s characterization.