Unfortunately, many patients are often misdiagnosed as allergic to penicillin. Penicillin allergy is the most frequently reported drug allergy, yet skin tests demonstrate that nine out of 10 patients reporting a penicillin allergy are not truly allergic. This represents a significant threat to public health, as an unverified penicillin allergy may lead to increased use of broad-spectrum antibiotics which are linked to increased antibiotic resistance, mortality rates, and overall healthcare costs.
In addition, many patients who do test positive for a penicillin allergy “grow out of it” over time. In fact, for those patients whose skin tests reveal a hypersensitivity to penicillin, more than half lose that sensitivity within five years, and approximately 80% lose that sensitivity within 10 years.
At ALK, we are proud to again join several other organizations as a sponsor of National Penicillin Allergy Day, a national awareness day to help educate the community on penicillin allergies and the importance of testing for this allergy to ensure proper diagnosis. Now in its third year, the day is celebrated on September 28th in honor of the date Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin – also known as the world’s first antibiotic – in 1928.
We encourage healthcare professionals to consider conducting routine penicillin skin testing for patients who report a history of penicillin allergy to ensure a correct diagnosis and proper antibiotic use. Patients who think they are allergic should consider discussing their concerns with their healthcare providers, who can share the risks and benefits of testing.
Together, we can help patients receive the most efficient and cost-effective treatment options.