Patients who think they are allergic to penicillin probably are not

November 14, 2014

Many people who report an allergy to penicillin actually are not allergic to penicillin, according to a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, in Atlanta.

Dr Pongdee

Many people who report an allergy to penicillin actually are not allergic to penicillin, according to a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, in Atlanta.

Patients who list an allergy to penicillin are often prescribed antibiotics that may be more costly or have more severe side effects, according to lead study author Thanai Pongdee, MD, Consultant, Section of Allergic Diseases, at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.

Dr Pongdee and colleagues studied 384 patients from August 2012 to August 2013 with a history of penicillin allergy who underwent allergy consultation and penicillin allergy skin testing. Of those patients, 360 (94%) had negative penicillin allergy skin test results and were given clearance by the allergist to receive penicillin or cephalosporin antibiotics. Over a 6-month time period, for patients who had reported penicillin allergy, vancomycin use was reduced by 54%, levofloxacin use was reduced by 40%, and clindamycin use was reduced by 22% compared to historical controls.

“The study was conducted to reduce the use of perioperative antibiotics including vancomycin, levofloxacin, and clindamycin in those patients with a history of penicillin allergy,” according to Dr Pongdee. “Thus, if one can determine if a patient is truly penicillin allergic, less-costly or less-toxic antibiotics may be used.

“An evaluation with an allergist who can perform allergy testing can determine if a patient is currently allergic to penicillin,” he continued. “Determining if a patient is truly allergic to penicillin may offer significant benefits in terms of potentially reducing antibiotic costs and reducing the incidence of drug-resistant organisms.”

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