Editor's note: The doctor in this story was using in-house testing to look for COVID-19 as opposed to sending tests to a third-party laboratory.
An Oklahoma City man said he and several family members were treated for COVID-19 by a local doctor, even though none of them were positive for the virus.
The doctor admitted he’s using untested treatments and is trying to get a paper published on his research.
The doctor, who has been disciplined in the past by the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision for over-prescribing violations, is now coming under fire for his treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Robert Riojas said he came to the Budget Medical Clinic on SW 28th after several relatives tested positive for COVID-19 there. He took a blood, antibody test.
“He says, 'oh no, you’re positive,'" Riojas said. “And I looked at it and it had one line, which is the standard for negative. So he proceeds to get me, I’m like I’m going to get you an injection.”
An injection of the steroids dexamethasone and kenalog.
Riojas said he didn’t have any symptoms, just a slight cough from allergies, so he thought it was strange. He and his family members retested with nasal swabs at another facility and all tested negative.
News 9 confronted Dr. Albert Nguyen about the treatments, and Nguyen said he is doing his own paper on COVID-19, using an untested method.
Nguyen told News 9 the test he uses isn’t very accurate, but cites the importance of speedy treatment anyhow.
“It’s not very sensitive. It’s not very accurate. But I use my clinical judgment,” Nguyen said. “The dexamethasone, the biggest trial in the world right now is called the recovery trial. They use six milligrams of dexamethasone… My injection, it composed of 10 milligram of dexamethasone and 40 milligram of kenalog. That equivalent to 18 milligrams of dexamethasone.”
Nguyen said he’s using three times more steroids than clinical tests are using now.
“In my paper, I keep telling people that six milligram once a day is not strong enough,” Nguyen said. "We treat about 370 people, 14 were hospitalized, and only one death. ... I produced a paper and I sent it through multiple journals but they don’t accept it.”
Dr. Larry Bookman of the State Medical Association said there’s a reason they don’t accept the paper: it's based on false science. A positive antibody test, he said, doesn’t mean you have COVID-19.
“So treating someone who no longer has a disease can be a very effective treatment. You’re going to be very successful because they don’t have the disease,” Bookman said.
Doctors have used dexamethasone very successfully in patients with breathing issues from COVID-19, but Bookman said it should never be used for people without serious symptoms.
“Your goal should to be to take care of patients, unless you’re a scientist, in which your goal is to do research and find groundbreaking treatments. In this case, neither of those is being taken care of, and what it looks to me like what you’re seeing here is somebody who wants to see their name in print," Bookman said.
Bookman said the steroid shots, in such a limited amount, won’t do any harm, but he adds, they don’t do any good either. There simply is no cure for COVID-19 yet.
Riojas said he’d like to see Nguyen investigated by the state for offering treatment to people who aren’t really sick.
“My niece, who was just had a baby, was going through a deep depression. Not being able to hold your baby that you just gave birth to. It’s negligent. It’s sad that he’s playing with people’s lives like this,” Riojas said.