Test patients for penicillin allergy before prescribing costly alternatives

Majority of patients reporting penicillin allergy showed no evidence in skin tests.

Test patients for penicillin allergy before prescribing costly alternatives
Test patients for penicillin allergy before prescribing costly alternatives

HealthDay News -- A majority of patients who believe they are allergic to penicillin may not be, according to two studies presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, (ACAAI) held from Nov. 6 to 10 in Atlanta.

“People are often given alternative antibiotics prior to surgery to ward off infection. But when antibiotic choices are limited due to resistance, treatment alternatives may be more toxic, more expensive and less effective,” the ACAAI said in a press release.

In one study, Thanai Pondgee, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, and colleagues tested patients 384 patients who reported being allergic to penicillin; 94% of those patients tested negative for penicillin allergy.

“They may have had an unfavorable response to penicillin at some point in the past, such as hives or swelling, but they did not demonstrate any evidence of penicillin allergy at the current time,” said Pondgee.

In a separate study, a team of investigators conducted penicillin skin testing on 38 patients who believed they were allergic to the medication in an effort to reduce the use of high-cost antibiotics. Of the 38 patients tested, all of them tested negative for an allergy for penicillin; this information allowed providers to change medications in 29 of these patients, significantly lowering medication costs.

“When you are told you have an allergy to something, it's important to be seen and tested by an allergist, who has the specialized training needed for accurate diagnosis and treatment,” said allergist James Sublett, ACAAI president-elect.

“If you're truly allergic to a medication, your allergist will counsel you on an appropriate substitute.”

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