Channel 2 Investigates: Doctor tests controversial drug on nursing home COVID-19 patients

Channel 2 Investigates a doctor giving a controversial drug to COVID-19 patients at a Texas City nursing home, some say without their consent.

Investigation: Doctor uses controversial drug on Texas City nursing home coronavirus patients

TEXAS CITY, Texas – Inside a Texas City senior living facility is a cluster of COVID-19 infected people.

From residents to nurses, there have been 83 confirmed positive cases in all, including 87-year-old Helen Edrozo.

“Mom has dementia so it’s difficult sometimes,” said Larry, Edrozo’s son.

At the 135-bed nursing home called “The Resort at Texas City” is a potentially life-threatening problem and the attempt at a solution is either bold or reckless depending on your perspective.

"Don't you worry about the flip side if something were to go wrong?" asked Channel 2 Investigates reporter Joel Eisenbaum.

“These are medications that have been around for some time,” said Dr. Robin Armstrong, the medical director at The Resort. He added, “We’re really happy with the results. The patients are doing well and they’ve improved on it.”

What’s happening at The Resort is a living, breathing human study using the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and antibiotics to treat COVID-19.

President Donald Trump, in general, has supported the use of the drug.

“I think it could be something really incredible,” he said.

But the actual scientific research behind the treatment is still thin.

“At this point, nobody knows if it will be effective,” said Dr. Philip Keiser with the Galveston County Health Department.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, but it is licensed for human use by the FDA and that is an important point said Keiser.

“You know from an ethical and legal point of view, I can prescribe any drug that’s licensed by the FDA and if I do a bad job of it... well there may be some civil consequences or the licensing boards may weigh in on that,” said Keiser.

Larry Edrozo claims his mother was prescribed the 5-day hydroxychloroquine drug regimen without her consent, and without any other family members’ consent.

“Typically for changing medications like this, adding medications, it’s not a requirement we get that,” said Armstrong.

“I was a little bit disturbed to see the doctor said at this stage, consent was not necessary,” said Larry Edrozo. He added, “I have never heard from the doctor.”

Armstrong said that of the 39 patients who took hydroxychloroquine at his direction, only one has died and that patient only got the drug combo for one day, according to the doctor.

"I think we can all be very, very satisfied that there was a positive outcome here from these folks," said Armstrong.

Armstrong freely admits he secured hydroxychloroquine through a political connection and using it saved his patients’ lives and largely kept them out of the hospital.

But is it crossing the line to try an experimental therapy without a patient or families’ consent, as Larry Edrozo claims?

"I would urge the family to talk to the doctor and reach out some more and try to get some direct answers. I think as physicians we all owe that to our patients," said Keiser.

“It was supposed to start last Saturday, it should’ve been over Wednesday. Now it’s Monday and I still haven’t heard anything from the doctor’s office,” Larry Edrozo said.

Armstrong says he did not need additional consent to prescribe hydroxychloroquine, but he says whenever possible, he did have conversations with his patients about the treatment.

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