Testing proves penicillin allergies less prevalent than thought

Medicine takingThink you or your kids are allergic to penicillin? You actually might not be.

A new study from the University of Maryland, Baltimore revealed that testing hospital patients for penicillin allergy leads to better antibiotic treatment since most people who think they are allergic to penicillin are actually not. The study evaluated a skin-testing program that was managed by infectious diseases physician fellows who were able to appropriately assess patients for penicillin allergy and perform the testing.

“Our study confirmed that many people who think they have a penicillin allergy actually do not when penicillin allergy testing is performed,” says Emily L. Heil, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of pharmacy practice and science at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. “This is hugely important since patients with reported penicillin allergies tend to get suboptimal antibiotic therapy compared to patients without reported penicillin allergies.”

Skin testing was conducted on 76 people who said they were allergic to penicillin while they were patients at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Of the valid tests, 96 percent were not allergic. The outcome mirrors results of several national studies that have led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to alert healthcare professionals to implement specific interventions, such as a penicillin allergy assessment protocol, to improve antibiotic use at the hospital.

By Betsy Stein