Theranos fights back against scrutinizing WSJ reports with 6,000-word post

It's a trend: Theranos is the latest company to respond to critical media reports with a lengthy missive. FTI Consulting is helping the company respond.

Theranos CEo Elizabeth Holmes. (Image via Theranos' Facebook account).
Theranos CEo Elizabeth Holmes. (Image via Theranos' Facebook account).

PALO ALTO, CA: Healthcare technology company Theranos has come out swinging in response to a week-old Wall Street Journal piece scrutinizing its blood-testing methods with a 6,000-word rebuttal outlining what it says the newspaper got wrong.

FTI Consulting is aiding Theranos with communications on this issue. A representative from the firm was not immediately available for comment.

Theranos posted the lengthy response on the news section of its website on Thursday, then bragged on Twitter that its statement was 3,000 words longer than the WSJ story.

"We are the same company offering the same services as we were last week," Theranos’ statement noted. "The [WSJ] stories say or imply many things that are simply wrong."

The company indicated that it knew it had a fight on its hands in the five months it said the reporter spent working on the story. Theranos alleged in the post that the Journal reporter made it abundantly clear that he considered Theranos "a target to be taken down, and not simply the subject of an objective news story."

The company’s post focused on disproving several points in the WSJ piece, including the publication’s questioning of the accuracy and reliability of its tests; its implications that Theranos performs all of its tests with finger-sticks and that its devices are only capable of running a limited number of tests; and whether Theranos’ proficiency-testing protocols comply with regulations.

Throughout the post, Theranos reiterated that it communicated the correct information to the reporter before his article was published, but it was not included.

"The reporter's representation is inaccurate and misleading and creates confusion about our testing methodologies," the company explained. It added that the story did not reflect the views of scientists, thought leaders, hospitals, and business partners who have partnered with the company or used its technology and found it to be "innovative and revolutionary."

Theranos also linked to testimonials from satisfied customers and said it has run more than 3.5 million tests, with patient satisfaction scores from tens of thousands of people that consistently rate the company, on average, higher than 4.8 out of 5.

Last week, the WSJ reported that Theranos ceased collecting small vials of blood drawn from finger pricks for nearly all of its tests in response to pressure from the Food and Drug Administration. Observers called the decision a major blow to its goal of recasting the blood-testing sector. The company has been valued at $9 billion.

The Journal added, citing unnamed sources, that FDA inspectors recently conducted a surprise probe of Theranos’ facilities after concerns were raised about its proprietary testing methods. Government officials had told Theranos executives that the FDA considered its "nanotainer," used to collect blood from fingers, an unapproved medical device, according to the Journal.

Prior to Theranos posting its long missive, its chief executive took a confrontational stance at the newspaper’s own conference. Speaking at WSJDLive, Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes defended her company on Wednesday, saying, "I’ve never seen The Wall Street Journal as a tabloid magazine."

"I read what was written in the article," she said, according to numerous reports. "We disagree with it. We think it was false. And we think it was misleading."

The 31-year-old CEO also sat down with rival media outlet The New York Times to rebut the article.

The Journal issued a statement on Wednesday reiterating "that our articles about Theranos were thoroughly reported, fair, and wholly accurate."

"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 newspaper said. "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."

The emerging long-term rebuttal trend
Last month, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba penned a nearly 2,000-word response to Barron’s after the investor magazine suggested the company’s stock price could fall by another 50%.

Alibaba communications leader Jim Wilkinson, who wrote the letter, said his company’s goal was to let the facts and the financial data do the talking in its response.

"The story was unfair, and it lacked integrity, professionalism, and fair play," he said last month. "We discussed it as a management team and agreed we had no choice but to move aggressively to set the record straight."

More recently, the company rolled out Alibaba Defined, an interactive digital portal created to answer the question "What is Alibaba?" for audiences outside of China. It explains the cultural and financial view of modern China and market opportunities there and has videos showing the e-commerce giant’s international expansion.

Earlier this week, Amazon SVP of corporate affairs Jay Carney hit back at a two-month-old New York Times article about the online retailer’s "bruising" workplace conditions with a blog post saying the piece was not fact-checked. The former White House press secretary used Medium to respond to the article, which described Amazon as a combative organization where nearly everyone cries at his or her desk.

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