Penicillin Allergy label – the unmet needs – causes and potential solutions

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Authors Information

1Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, The University of Manchester, Manchester, U.K.
2Department of Immunology, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, Salford, U.K.
3Greater Manchester Immunology Service, Manchester, U.K.


Published: 02 December 2022
Accepted: 22 November 2022
Received: 31 August 2022


Background. Penicillin allergy is the most prevalent drug allergy. Its overdiagnosis has been associated with inappropriate antibiotic prescribing, increased antimicrobial resistance, worse clinical outcomes, and increased healthcare costs. Methods. 403 inpatients were audited against National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) Clinical Guidance 183 (CG183) on diagnosis, investigations, documentation, and management of penicillin allergy.50 junior doctors were surveyed to explore barriers to best practice, investigating their knowledge of, and confidence using the NICE CG183 guidelines. Their views on potential solutions were also explored.  Results. The audit identified: 13% (54/403) of patients labelled penicillin allergic; 24% (13/54) fulfilled criteria for referral but none were referred to specialists. With regards to documentation: 33% (18/54) documented exact drug name; 72% (39/54) documented signs and symptoms; 20% (11/54) documented reaction severity; 2% (1/54) documented indication for the drug taken; 4% (2/54) documented number of doses taken or days before onset of the reaction and 0% documented route of administration.The survey revealed barriers including: 1- lack of awareness and confidence in applying the NICE CG183 on diagnosis and management; 2- tendency to err on the side of caution when de-labelling patients. All agreed that decision support tools would address barriers to best practice and appropriate penicillin allergy de-labelling Conclusions.The current practice of diagnosing, documenting, and managing penicillin allergies does not meet NICE CG183. A lack of awareness and confidence using NICE CG183 are the main contributing barriers to best practice. Decision support tools, including a drug allergy app, would help overcome these barriers.

Penicillin; NICE; penicillin allergy; drug allergy; survey; audit; decision support tool.

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