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Ramesh Balwani, the chief operating officer of Theranos, was sentenced on Wednesday to nearly 13 years in prison for defrauding investors and patients about the company’s technology. Elizabeth Holmes, his boss, co-conspirator, and former girlfriend, was earlier found guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud investors, as well as three wire fraud counts tied to specific investors. In addition to the 135-month prison term meted out — which Holmes is challenging — a future hearing will determine how much restitution she will have to pay.

I can’t speak to the appropriateness of the prison time. But I believe that no financial award could come close to equivalency for the irreparable harm the Theranos debacle has done to individual patients, the health care system in general, and support for innovation in the field of diagnostics. The damage could not have been greater had they intentionally sought to sabotage health care progress.


In 2016, I wrote a First Opinion essay about the damage Theranos would wreak on innovation in the diagnostic industry. Now, a pandemic later, I’m seeing that my assessment woefully underestimated the problem.

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