Safeway And Theranos’ $350 Million Blood Test Folly

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Safeway trying to provide its customers with more tools to control their health and well-being, but it toes the line of irony when those moves come at the expense of Safeway’s own financial health.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that Safeway is in negotiations to end the partnership with blood testing startup Theranos that would have equipped more than 800 Safeway locations with low-cost and efficient blood testing equipment. After committing approximately $350 million since 2011 to outfit select supermarkets with functional clinics, The WSJ explained that Safeway came to this decision after Theranos missed several performance benchmarks and rollout deadlines for the blood testing program, though Safeway executives also raised concerns (as have others) over the legitimacy of Theranos’ low-cost blood testing claims during a test run at the chain’s Pleasanton, California headquarters.

Theranos responded with a press release that claimed The WSJ report relies on inaccurate and misleading information and anonymous sources, but no official word from Safeway has come as of yet. Regardless, the news does not bode well for Theranos and embattled CEO Elizabeth Holmes, who has been responding to attacks and doubts of her company’s claims for weeks. Theranos’ general counsel, Heather King, responded directly to The WSJ’s claims, denying them in full.

“We don’t comment on discussions with other companies,” King wrote in an email to The WSJ. “The questions and information you have presented … are inaccurate and defamatory.”

Safeway has been using the clinics constructed under the program as flu-shot administration sites, but as long as they remain in the chain’s locations, they might serve as odd examples of Theranos’ ongoing and often antagonistic relationship with media outlets and retail partners that once counted themselves securely in Theranos’ increasingly unstable corner.

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