Friday, August 29, 2014

Theranos (fertility testing for 35$?!)

I will always remember the day when my third missed miscarriage was discovered. My awesome friend M had come down from Philadelphia to NYC just to hold my hand through it. Soon after I started talking to her, I started crying while in the waiting room. I do not know if it was the memory of past trauma or intuition, but I was literally a blubbering mess while waiting for them to get me into ultrasound. When the loss was discovered, nothing really changed, because it felt like a part of me already knew I had lost that pregnancy even before I got confirmation. I was then completely numb.

That was probably a good thing, because after that was done, they hustled me into a chair to get blood for the recurrent pregnancy loss panel. Usually, phlebotomists can stick me on the first try. On that day, it took them many tries, and each try was one that would have caused me no amount of distress on a regular day. It was the worst blood draw of my life, and I was luckily (or unluckily) too tuned out to care. They took 21 vials of blood, all which were sent off to different laboratories.

Why am I recounting all this? Because blood draws can be painful. They take too much blood, mostly because all tests are not run by the same center. The response time is slow. There can be laboratory-to-laboratory variation. The amount charged is insane.

Had that RPL panel not been covered by insurance, it would have cost me thousands of dollars.

The key to changing the face of medicine is faster and more affordable diagnostic tests. People talk about this constantly, but nobody does anything about it.

A few weeks ago, somebody "liked" a post by A Mighty Girl. I aimlessly clicked on it, and was soon electrified.

Elizabeth Holmes dropped out of Stanford to start a blood diagnostics company that would literally change the face of how things were done.

Asked why she wanted to start this company when she had not even finished college, she replied:

"Because systems like this could completely revolutionize how effective health care is delivered. And this is what I want to do. I don’t want to make an incremental change in some technology in my life. I want to create a whole new technology, and one that is aimed at helping humanity at all levels regardless of geography or ethnicity or age or gender."

Theranos has grown in leaps and bounds in the past 10 years. 

If this very gritty woman keeps forging on, she could very well accomplish what she set out to accomplish. 

How does this system work? Basically, many blood tests can be performed off just a few drops of blood, taken via a fingerprick.

The analysis involves microfluidics, and this company is paranoid about guarding their technology, so nobody knows how it works. Nonetheless, it delivers results rapidly, and their integrated approach allows them to keep adding tests that can be run off their platform, and it is cheap.

The normal fertility panel costs maybe around 2000$. If you use Theranos, you could test FSH for $12.77, LH for $12.73, TSH for $11.55, Progesterone for $14.34, and so on. See here for a list of the Theranos tests. In an intereview in Wired magazine, she stated that her fertility panel would cost $35(!!!!!!!!!).

Where is this available? Theranos has partnered with Walgreens, apparently, and they have planned a nationwide rollout. Currently this may be available to you at Walgreens stores in California and Arizona.

I thought this was amazing. If it takes off, the amount of money that could be saved in the US is mindboggling, and people would be more willing to get tested for little things like iron or vitamin D or Vitamin B-12, which could go some way in optimizing their own health. So here is hoping that this woman keeps forging on, and doing my very small bit to help spread the word.

For more information, go to the writeups in Fortune or Wired, or visit Theranos's website.

Random information aside, I also know that a few of you only stop by to find out how Gauri and I are doing, so here goes: Gauri is such a happy child...she has a smile and laugh for everybody. She now turns over easily and wriggles forward. She babbles up a storm, observes everything, and gets seriously pissed off if you make her lie on your lap like a regular baby. She needs to be sitting up or standing, dammit, because she is a big girl now. She is a total drama queen too...major crocodile tears that abruptly dry up when you do what she wants you to do. She  has discovered the joys of hair pulling: she yanks my hair around, and I feel like a horse being guided around by the reins. Her favorite thing is grabbing people by the hair and yanking them forward so she can slobber and gnaw on their cheeks/necks.  


  1. This is so cool. As I was reading I'm thinking, Theranos...that sounds familiar. Turns out, one of the companies I work for just received an order from them! It's so rare anymore that I get to feel like our technology is helping to do (or at least has the potential to - this is R&D stage for them at this point, I'm sure) real, actual GOOD for people. Hooray!

  2. Wow, what a fantastic idea!!

  3. That IS very cool. As one of the folks who enjoys your medical insights but loves hearing about you and Gauri's lives the most, enjoyed your little update. She sounds smart! And the picture is so cute!

  4. This made me get goosebumps. That panel was expensive. I remember that the MTHFR alone was two grand to run. Something that my 23and me told me for $99. Your girl is darling and those eyes look like she is soaking up everything. Thank you for the update.

  5. Uggggh, if only Theranos had come just a smidgeon sooner... Rani had virtually non-existent veins and every single time she had blood drawn, they had to stick her upwards of 7-10 times to find the vein, no exaggeration. Because, apparently, "wimpy white boy" syndrome isn't just a preemie term and can last well into adulthood, I'd nearly pass out just from watching.

    Gauri is lookin' snazzy :-)

  6. What an amazing breakthrough. I hope it comes to full fruition.

    Love hearing about Gauri! She sounds like a feisty little girl!

  7. Gauri is soooooooooo precious! And so big already! I'm thrilled to read that you are both well, although it sounds from your comment that you are in need of adult conversation and company. I hope you can find a way to get that soon.
    Thinking of you (even if my commenting is atrocious).