Theranos phenomenon: promises and fallacies

Clin Chem Lab Med. 2015 Jun;53(7):989-93. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2015-0356.


Recently, spectacular advances in diagnostic technologies, genomics, etc. offer unprecedented opportunities for widespread testing of asymptomatic individuals, in the hope that this testing will unravel early disease signs which could lead to preventative or more effective therapeutic measures. In particular, one commercial organization, Theranos, promises to revolutionize diagnostics by offering multi-analyte testing at low prices in commercial outlets, thus challenging the current paradigm of targeted and centralized diagnostic testing. In this paper, I analyze the Theranos technology and their promises, and contrast this information with the currently used technologies, to show that most of the company's claims are exaggerated. While it remains to be seen if this technology will revolutionize diagnostics, in this Opinion Paper, I also draw attention of associated issues, such as self-testing and self-interpretation of results, over-testing, over-diagnosis and over-treatment, along with their associated harms. As the public is bombarded daily with new and revolutionary health-related advances, it is time to balance the enthusiasm of the seemingly obvious huge gains, by also explaining the associated possible harms.

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic Techniques and Procedures* / economics
  • Humans
  • Time Factors