The True Story Behind ‘The Dropout’ & Elizabeth Holmes Is Terrifying

You’ve probably heard of Elizabeth Holmes, central figure of the new Disney+ series The Dropout. Played by Amanda Seyfried, Holmes had already become a global name prior to the series release thanks to the incredible rise, and horrific fall, of her company Theranos.

The true story of Elizabeth Holmes is just as terrifying as the series suggests. A young, ambitious ex-Stanford student, Holmes founded Theranos when she was just nineteen, only to see its demise by the time she was in her early 30s.

Who Is Elizabeth Holmes?

Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout. Image: Hulu.

Born in 1984 to a vice-president of Enron (interestingly, another company that had a shocking demise due to fraud) and a Congressional committee staffer, Holmes became interested in computer programming during high school, going on to study chemical engineering at Stanford and eventually started working at the Genome Institute of Singaporetesting for illness via blood samples.

By 2003 she filed her first patent, before dropping out of Stanford and starting down the road to creating Theranos.

What Is Theranos?

Seyfried as Holmes and Naveen Andrews as Sunny Balwani. Image: Hulu.

Theranos was the name of Holmes’ company that promised the diagnosis of illnesses in record time via a pin prick of blood that was then passed through a mysterious machine called the Edison device. Meant to lessen the invasiveness and complexities of blood testing, plus offer quick information on possible illnesses, it was supposed to revolutionize healthcare by discovering illnesses earlier, and give widespread, easy access to health checks.

Soon, Theranos struck a deal with giant pharmacy Walgreens, where 40 stores in Arizona sold the Theranos blood tests from 2013. The availability of such a simple test in a store as accessible as Walgreens meant over a million tests were bought by customers, according to Esquire. However, by 2015 it had all hit the fan thanks to a damning feature in the Wall Street Journal by John Carreyou, which saw many involved in the inner workings of Theranos claiming that none of the technology had ever actually worked.

Theranos came under fire in court when a class action lawsuit was taken against Holmes in Arizona, which saw people alleging everything from false positive HIV tests to being incorrectly told to stop taking blood thinning medication. One woman even tested that a Theranos test falsely said she was miscarrying, leading to her taking medication that could have harmed her unborn baby. Thankfully, she delivered a healthy baby boy after discovering via a different test with a different company that she was still pregnant.

“If someone lost their job, or someone thought they had a disease when they didn’t, or they should have gotten treatment when they didn’t because of a false test, that’s heartbreaking. It’s wrong,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich told Fortune earlier this year.

What Is Elizabeth Holmes Doing Now?

Elizabeth Holmes in a scene from HBO documentary, The Inventor. Image: HBO.

Holmes was made to pay over $4 million in a settlement stemming from the Arizona lawsuit, but her problems didn’t end there. In 2018, she was charged with fraud by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This was settled, but the biggest case was the United States vs. Holmes et. al., in which she and business partner Sunny Balwani were indicted on nine counts of wire fraud, plus two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In January 2022, she was convicted of four counts of defrauding investors, however she was found not guilty of defrauding patients. While Holmes has pleaded not guilty, she will be passing on September 26th 2022, with the possibility of up to 20 years in prison and fines in the millions.

Elizabeth Holmes is free on bail at the time of writing this article, and welcomed a baby boy with husband William Evans in January this year.


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