Thursday, 18 April, 2024
HomeEditor's PickVast majority of ‘penicillin allergies’ are just antibiotic side-effects

Vast majority of ‘penicillin allergies’ are just antibiotic side-effects

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) warns in a review that 90% of people who think they are allergic to penicillin are not – they were merely experiencing the common side effects of antibiotics – putting millions at increased risk of deadly infections because of their avoidance of the antibiotic.

In other cases, reports The Telegraph, old allergies remained on record when they had actually settled down since childhood. The society advised patients to check their medical records when next they visit their GP, to ensure they are not wrongly labelled as allergic to the drug.

The professional body, which represents pharmacists and pharmacy students, said  a failure to take penicillin could mean people being put on other antibiotics that may be less effective

Being labelled allergic to penicillin is associated with a higher mortality rate of an extra six deaths per 1 000 patients in the year after treatment, research has found.

‘Low or very low risk’

Several years ago, a paper in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology suggested six to 10% of the general population in the UK and US are recorded as allergic to penicillin. However, “90%-95% of these labels are found to be incorrect after comprehensive allergy testing”.

It has been estimated that incorrect penicillin allergy records affect 2.7m people in England alone.

The RPS said that many people may believe they are allergic to penicillin for various reasons, after suffering common side-effects of the drug like nausea or diarrhoea. Sometimes, the infection being treated may also cause issues such as a rash, which is regarded as an allergic reaction and reported as such, it said.


Journal of Clinical Pharmacology article – Sustaining and spreading penicillin allergy delabelling: A narrative review of the challenges for service delivery and patient safety


The Telegraph article – Nine out of 10 people who think they have penicillin allergy do not, top pharmacists warn (Restricted access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Simple procedure could help millions with penicillin allergy label – US trial


Penicillin allergy cases on the decline


Misconceptions over penicillin allergy deprive patients of best treatment





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