Allergists often have to dispel quite a few myths or mistruths the public believes to be true about allergy-related conditions. One area is penicillin allergy. Since it is the most commonly reported drug allergy, many of you may have come into contact with a patient who reports they are allergic to penicillin. Allergists can help make sure patients get an accurate diagnosis.
This issue comes to the forefront every September, as Sept. 28 is National Penicillin Allergy Day. Why Sept. 28? It is the anniversary of the day penicillin was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928.
As allergy specialists, you probably already know the statistics – 9 out of 10 people think they have a penicillin allergy, but they aren’t allergic. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control states that 10% of the population report penicillin allergy, but less than 1% are still 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.
Allergy experts are in a unique position to address the issue of penicillin allergy. The College’s Penicillin Toolkit is a great place to start. It addresses the issue on four fronts: testing and treatment, billing/coding, outreach to patients and informing primary care physicians. The toolkit 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.
TedEd has a fun, quick video on the history of penicillin and why it’s important to see an allergist if patients think they have a penicillin allergy. The College contributed to the information in this video.
Read more on penicillin allergy in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology:
- The economic implications of penicillin allergy
- The negative predictive value of 5-day drug provocation test in nonimmediate beta-lactam allergy in children
- Predictive factors of amoxicillin immediate hypersensitivity and validation of PEN-FAST clinical decision rule
- Skin testing and oral amoxicillin challenge in the outpatient allergy and clinical immunology clinic in pregnant women with penicillin allergy
- A quality improvement initiative to improve primary care referral rates for penicillin allergy delabeling
It’s important for your patients and community to know that it’s common for people to believe they are penicillin-allergic, although they have never been tested. Reach out to them in your practice newsletter and with social media posts. You can also encourage 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. Follow the College on Facebook and Twitter on Sept. 28 and share our content on this topic.