Penicillin allergy – dispelling myths

| September 26, 2022

Penicillin allergy – dispelling myths

Penicillin allergy comes to the forefront every year on Sept. 28 – National Penicillin Allergy Day. Why Sept. 28? It is the anniversary of the day penicillin was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928.

It is the most commonly reported drug allergy, and many allergists have seen patients who report they are allergic to penicillin (when in fact they may not be). Allergy experts are in a unique position to address this issue and can help make sure patients get an accurate diagnosis.

According to the CDC, 10% of the population report penicillin allergy, but less than 1% are truly allergic when evaluated. Patients with penicillin allergy labels are at risk for suboptimal treatment with antibiotics, poorer clinical outcomes, drug-resistant infections, and adverse drug events. It is important that people who think they are allergic to penicillin get tested.

The College’s Penicillin Toolkit is great place to start. The toolkit focuses on four fronts: testing and treatment; billing/coding; outreach to patients; and informing primary care physicians. It has everything you need to conduct penicillin allergy testing in your practice, including insurance guidelines, worksheets and consent forms. It also has FAQs and facts for patients.

For more information, watch the College’s recent webinar “Operationalize Penicillin Allergy Testing” for tips on offering this service in your practice.

Read more on penicillin allergy in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology:

Several recipients of The Allergists’ Foundation Community Grants have focused their projects on penicillin allergy.

Timothy Chow, MD – 2021 grant recipient – led a 12-month project on delabeling penicillin allergy in the primary care setting that evaluated risk-stratification and direct amoxicillin challenges in an outpatient pediatric primary care clinic, while assessing implementation barriers and their impact on referrals for outpatient allergist evaluation. He will be presenting an e-poster on his findings at the College’s Annual Meeting in Louisville, KY.

Sara Anvari, MD, MSc, FACAAI – 2022 grant recipient – will lead a 12-month project to develop a protocol to ensure that low-risk patients in the Texas Children’s health care system are properly evaluated for penicillin allergy.

Lulu Tsao, MD – 2022 grant recipient – will lead a 12-month project to assess and bridge the gaps in knowledge, perceptions, and barriers to prenatal penicillin allergy evaluations among obstetrics (OB) providers and pregnant patients.

National Penicillin Allergy Day is a great time to reach out to people through social media and your practice newsletter to let people know that it’s common for them to believe they are penicillin-allergic and encourage testing. You can also spread the word to patients who test negative to penicillin allergy to follow up with their physician, pharmacist and other HCPs to make sure the penicillin allergy label has been removed everywhere it needs to be.