Zurik: Doctor’s drive-thru Coronavirus testing methods, use of controversial drug questioned

Updated: Apr. 23, 2020 at 10:00 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - “Taking the Crazy Out of Corona[virus]” is a common tagline by a New Orleans-area doctor who has posted videos on Facebook and YouTube offering updates on COVID-19, so-called “Corona Bundles” of supplements and information on new testing offered at her clinic. It’s that testing and the doctor’s use of a controversial drug that has one medical expert saying it is not good medicine.

Dr. Kelly Burkenstock has an anti-aging and skin care clinic in New Orleans and Mandeville and...
Dr. Kelly Burkenstock has an anti-aging and skin care clinic in New Orleans and Mandeville and has been posting videos online to 'Take the Crazy out of Corona' and offers a new antibody test for COVID-19.

Dr. Kelly Burkenstock, a physician who has an anti-aging clinic in New Orleans and Mandeville, has posted several videos on YouTube and on Facebook educating viewers to take the “crazy out of corona.” During this pandemic surrounding COVID-19, Burkenstock has turned her skin repair clinic into a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site, testing dozens of patients a day, with potentially dangerous ramifications.

Suzanne Linden had minor symptoms and decided to go to the clinic for a test, paying $159 for a drive-up COVID-19 antibody test.

“I was feeling tired, I was having headaches and I was just paranoid that I might have a virus,” Linden said.

The test was a serological, or blood, test that uses a small sample of blood from near the person’s fingertip. Dr. Burkenstock told Linden she tested positive for COVID-19.

“When I went and got tested it was positive -- I was in shock,” she said.

Suzanne Linden was tested at Dr. Burkenstock's drive-up test site and was told she tested...
Suzanne Linden was tested at Dr. Burkenstock's drive-up test site and was told she tested positive for COVID-19. When she sought a second opinion at an Ochsner site, that test did not detect COVID-19.(WVUE-TV)

Linden was surprised she tested positive, so she decided to get a second opinion, by getting another doctor to order her to be tested at an Ochsner clinic.

“Those test results came back that we were, in fact, negative, not positive,” Linden said.

Since Linden’s test came back positive, Dr. Burkenstock prescribed her a trio of medications that in her videos she says gives every patient with a positive result. Those medications were hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and zinc.

Suzanne Linden was given this prescription after she was told an antibody test indicated she...
Suzanne Linden was given this prescription after she was told an antibody test indicated she had COVID-19. In a follow up test at another clinic, COVID-19 was not detected.

Another patient had a similar story, visiting Burkenstock’s clinic and getting a positive test result and the same day testing negative at another clinic. That person did not want to do an interview but said Burkenstock also supplied her with a prescription for all three medications.

Hydroxychloroquine is a powerful antiviral drug that is currently under clinical trials to judge its effectiveness and safety for use on coronavirus patients. The Food and Drug Administration tells doctors to carefully review warnings and drug interactions before prescribing hydroxychloroquine. Linden and the other patient said Dr. Burkenstock never did.

Former New Orleans Health Director, Dr. Brobson Lutz, questions whether the patients who tested positive on an antibody test should have been prescribed such medication.

“Well I don't know how to say it delicately but that's pretty poor medicine,” Brobson said. “It makes you wonder where that physician went to medical school.”

This is the test panel for Suzanne Linden's COVID-19 antibody test administered at Dr. Kelly...
This is the test panel for Suzanne Linden's COVID-19 antibody test administered at Dr. Kelly Burkenstock's clinic. Doctors who reviewed the test say it shows possibly one but not both antibodies.

Dr. Lutz reviewed the test results of Linden and the other patient. He said the blood test looks for the presence of two antibodies -- IgG and IgM. According to Lutz, the IgG band shows the patient had COVID-19 at one point, but not currently. The IgM band, he said, would suggest the patient may have COVID-19 now.

Lutz said the test strips he reviewed showed a band for IgG but not IgM.

“It was not an IgM band present on that test,” he said. “There was a suggestion of an IgG band. I reviewed it myself and I also asked an immunologist to review it who concurred on that opinion.

“A First-year or second-year medical student knows that it takes the presence of IgM and an acute infection and why a person was given a prescription for multiple medications who had the findings that showed up on that little point of test kit is beyond me. It is not good medicine,” Lutz said.

At the time of Linden’s test, the FDA had only approved one antibody test for clinics. It is unclear where Burkenstock received her tests. Many unapproved tests have flooded the market and the federal government is skeptical about these serology tests.

In one of his daily briefings on the state’s response to the pandemic, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards addressed antibody tests and why the state has not moved forward with large scale antibody testing.

“On our call with the Vice President, Dr. [Deborah] Birx, she talked about how serology testing has a really high rate of inaccurate results.

To date, the state has only stood up testing sites that use a nasal swab to test for the presence of COVID-19.

A test is administered to a WVUE-TV photographer during an undercover visit to Dr....
A test is administered to a WVUE-TV photographer during an undercover visit to Dr. Burkenstock's COVID-19 drive-up testing site.

We sent a photographer to Burkenstock’s office to get tested. He returned a negative result, but Dr. Burkenstock still had a recommendation.

“The other thing is the MMR which is just a little measles booster [vaccine],” She told him. “That has absolutely six research articles again on my Facebook and on my website, research studies that are showing how it blocks the COVID pathway.”

We went to Burkenstock’s Skin Body Health website and did not find six research articles, instead finding only one link on the MMR vaccine. However, the link was to an editorial, not research, by an LSU professor that has yet to be approved as a legitimate study.

The professor’s concept or theory in the editorial was that a “vaccine booster might be protective against the sepsis that can occur with COVID-19.”

Lutz said there is a study ongoing with another type of vaccine but does not understand why an MMR vaccine would be used as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

“I can’t even think of any biological basis for [use of the MMR vaccine]. There is some work being done with BCG, which is a vaccine against Tuberculosis that stimulates the immune system as a possible aid in COVID-19, but as far as MMR goes, giving that, it’s junk medicine,” Brobson said.

On her Facebook page, Burkenstock posted this about the MMR vaccine:

  • The MMR booster vaccine should be administered again now during this Covid19 Coronavirus pandemic. The reason is you need fresh high titers of the MMR live vaccine to block the bad coronavirus pathways. The MMR booster vaccine is thought to protect us from Coronavirus for 90-120 days.

Burkenstock suggested we talk to several doctors about the vaccine. We emailed one about the comment she made above. He told us that statement is not supported by evidence now.

There is currently some research underway to see if the MMR vaccine could help with the treatment of COVID-19. Burkenstock said she has been in communication with some of the doctors involved in one research project.

Burkenstock also had our photographer perform a breathing test, telling him it was a “silly little test, but it’s the best we got right now.”

The holding your breath test has been one that is widely circulated online as being a way to tell if you may have Coronavirus, but those claims have been debunked numerous times. Dr. Faheem Younus, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Maryland’s Upper Chesapeake Health, addressed the issue on twitter saying it was wrong and a myth.

Burkenstock said the ten-second test is a diagnostic tool she uses, much like taking a temperature, a pulse or blood pressure. She said she never implied it was a test for COVID-19.

Burkenstock also offered our photographer a reduced rate on a follow-up test.

“We discount re-tests to $89,” She told him. “We’re not paying ourselves, we’re just trying to cover some of our costs.”

Dr. Kelly Burkenstock, seen in one of her 'Take the Crazy Out of Corona' videos posted to...
Dr. Kelly Burkenstock, seen in one of her 'Take the Crazy Out of Corona' videos posted to YouTube.(YouTube/Dr. Kelly Burkenstock)

Burkenstock completed an internal medicine residency from LSU in 1999. She says she continues to practice that type of medicine. We do not know how much of her practice involves internal medicine compared to the anti-aging and other services she provides.

On Facebook, Burkenstock has posted several videos taking the “Crazy out of Corona” providing updates in coronavirus testing at her offices and so-called “Corona Bundles” of supplement she claims will help boost immunity and ‘combat’ corona[virus]. On her page, many clients compliment the “fabulous information” she posts. One person said they were a former hospital nurse and wrote: “I think it’s really good that you have found several different angles on treating COVID-19.”

One Ochsner doctor criticized Burkenstock, writing, “You are creating a dangerous false.sense of security and using resources irresponsibly. Please.familiarize yourself with the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines.”

FOX 8’s Lee Zurik called Dr. Burkenstock on the phone to schedule an interview. She told him by text message she would do a Zoom interview April 16 at 3 p.m. However, at 2:59 p.m., Burkenstock sent an email that the interview was off.

Before canceling the interview, she sent a text saying, “I can’t wait for a discussion tomorrow [April 16]. I have nothing to give but honesty and wholeheartedness.”

Burkenstock has been on FOX 8 as a guest numerous times -- eight times in the last year -- giving advice on “Brotox”, hair restoration and anti-aging. But now she has changed her focus, touting COVID-19 treatments, saying by text message she is the “Answer, not the enemy.”

Linden said she is lucky to have gotten a second opinion.

“I was freaked out, luckily, I had the opportunity to go to Ochsner to get tested to know for sure whether I was positive or negative and relieved to know I am negative,” she said. “My biggest concern is that I was prescribed medication that we don’t know if they were safe for me to take or not.”

Burkenstock never did an on-camera interview. Instead, she said new information has come out and she has stopped prescribing patients hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment. That new information came on the same day as a study showed the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment showed no benefit among patients at the country’s veterans hospitals.

After numerous opportunities for an interview, Burkenstock refused an on-camera interview, but in a statement said: “I am pleased that I have been designated as a “Physician Investigator” by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to actively participate in the conducting of Clinical Trials regarding the use of certain investigational drugs’ effectiveness on COVID19 patients with mild symptoms on an outpatient basis. I am volunteering my time on this clinical trial without compensation, as many other dedicated doctors have, in an effort to defeat this deadly virus.”

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