An unverified penicillin allergy is currently recognized as a significant public health risk.
Studies have found that an estimated 10% of patients self-report as being penicillin allergic; and that 9 out of 10 of those patients reporting a penicillin allergy are not truly allergic.1
Why is correctly identifying those who are not actually allergic to penicillin so important?
- Inaccurate diagnosis of penicillin allergy can adversely impact medical costs for both patients and healthcare systems: research shows that antibiotic costs for patients reporting penicillin allergies are up to 63% higher than for those who do not report being penicillin-allergic.3
- Patients labeled penicillin-allergic have a threefold increased risk of adverse events (ADE).4 In the hospital setting, history of penicillin allergy translates to about 10% more hospital days, 30% higher incidence of VRE infections, 23% higher incidence of C difficile infections, and 14% higher incidence of MRSA infections3.
- Correctly identifying those who are not actually allergic can improve antibiotic prescribing and combat the risk of super-bugs by allowing patients access to safer, less toxic antibiotics.3 By some estimates, up to half of all hospitalized patients in the US receive antibiotics and up to half of antimicrobial use may be inappropriate.5 There is a causal relationship between inappropriate antimicrobial use and resistance; changes in antimicrobial use lead to parallel changes in the prevalence of resistance.6
With statistics this compelling, it's important for patients and providers to know the facts about penicillin allergies.
For these reasons, Sept. 28—the date Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928—has been designated National Penicillin Allergy Day.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
There are several ways to get involved and help spread the word about National Penicillin Allergy Day!
- 1. Salkind, Alan R., Paul G. Cuddy, and John W. Foxworth. "Is this patient allergic to penicillin?: an evidence-based analysis of the likelihood of penicillin allergy." Jama 285.19 (2001): 2498-2505.
- 2. Macy, E., & Contreras, R. (2014). Health care use and serious infection prevalence associated with penicillin “allergy” in hospitalized patients: a cohort study. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 133(3), 790-796.
- 3. Blumenthal, Kimberly G., et al. "Addressing Inpatient Beta-Lactam Allergies: A Multihospital Implementation." The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice 5.3 (2017): 616-625.
- 4. Owens, R. C., Fraser, G. L., & Stogsdill, P. (2004). Antimicrobial Stewardship Programs as a Means to Optimize Antimicrobial Use. Pharmacotherapy, 24(7), 896-908.
- 5. Dellit, T. H. (2007). Summary of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America Guidelines for Developing an Institutional Program to Enhance Antimicrobial Stewardship. Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice, 15(4), 263-264.