Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, former second-in-command of defunct blood-testing startup Theranos, was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison Wednesday night.
Following a four-day trial earlier this year, Balwani was convicted of 12 charges of federal wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and defrauding investors and patients.
U.S. District Judge Edward Davila issued a sentence that was less than the 15 years that federal prosecutors had hoped for but more than the few months Balwani’s defense attorney sought.
The sentence came weeks after ex-CEO Elizabeth Holmes received just over 11 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
Both Holmes and Balwani were indicted on 12 counts of fraud in 2020, though one charge was later dismissed.
Due to accusations from Holmes’ lawyers that Balwani abused her sexually and emotionally while they were at the helm of Theranos, the two were tried separately. Balwani has steadfastly denied Holmes’ allegations of abuse.
The rise and fall of Theranos, the once-heralded startup poised to disrupt the healthcare industry before an investigation by The Wall Street Journal in 2015 led to its abrupt dissolution in 2018, was documented recently in the Hulu miniseries The Dropout. Balwani was portrayed by actor Naveen Andrews, who received several nominations at Hollywood award shows.
Since the dramatic collapse of Theranos and subsequent prison sentences issued for Holmes and Balwani, industry observers have debated the impact that this will have on medical marketing.
Amy West, head of U.S. digital transformation and innovation at Novo Nordisk, spoke with MM+M recently about Holmes’ sentencing and said that this situation serves as a “a good [wakeup call] to everybody, whether you’re a big pharma or a healthcare startup.”
For some, the Theranos scandal has a long shadow on healthcare marketing.
In the interview, he urged agencies to be curious and ask questions about the brands and products they are attached to through their work.