Public Release: 

Many doctors still don't know facts about penicillin allergy

Don't refer their 'penicillin-allergic' patients for testing

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (November 11, 2016) - If you think you're allergic to penicillin, but have never been tested, ask for a referral to an allergist to confirm the allergy. Many physicians whose patients have "penicillin allergy" in their charts don't know that frequently, a penicillin allergy diagnosis is given to a child as the result of a rash, but without any follow up testing.

A study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, examined 276 surveys of physicians at Rochester Regional Health. They found more than 80 percent of the general practitioners surveyed acknowledged the need for allergy consultation, but had never referred their patients to an allergist, or had only done so with one patient a year.

"The survey showed us there is a lack of understanding among internists and general practitioners regarding the need for testing the large numbers of people who report penicillin allergy but have never been tested," says Dipekka Soni, MD, lead author of the study. "Unfortunately, specialty physicians and non-internal medicine physicians had an even lower rate of referring those with reported penicillin allergy to an allergist for testing, 93 percent and 88 percent respectively."

About 10 percent of Americans carry a label of penicillin allergy, and others have an "allergic history" to other antibiotics. As a result, they are often prescribed more toxic, dangerous and expensive antibiotics that might not be necessary. "More than 90 percent of patients with a penicillin allergy can tolerate penicillin-like antibiotics, yet our survey showed that only 30 percent of the physicians responding to the survey knew that," added infectious diseases pharmacist Mary Staicu, PharmD, study co-author.

"Our research found a poor understanding of penicillin allergy among non-allergists," says allergist Allison Ramsey, MD, study co-author and ACAAI member. "Less than half of those surveyed understood that a penicillin allergy can resolve over time. Only 20 percent identified appropriate patients for penicillin skin testing from the descriptions provided."

It's vital that doctors understand the importance of confirming penicillin allergy, but it's even more critical that those who carry the label be tested by an allergist to be sure. An allergist will work with you to find out if you're actually allergic and determine what medications you have available for treatment if you are. If you're not, you'll be able to use medications that are safer, often more effective, and less expensive.

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Abstract Title: A clinical perspective: The prescriber's true understanding of the "penicillin allergic" patient

Author: Dipekka Soni, MD

For more information about allergies and to locate an allergist in your area, visit AllergyandAsthmaRelief.org. The ACAAI Annual Meeting is November 10-14, 2016 at the Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco, CA. For more news and research from the ACAAI Scientific Meeting, go to our newsroom - and follow the conversation on Twitter #ACAAI16.

About ACAAI

The ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 6,000 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes. For more information and to find relief, visit AllergyandAsthmaRelief.org. Join us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

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