Andrew Aziz, PharmD BCPS, BCIDP
Penicillin allergies are frequently reported and represent the most common drug allergy in the US, yet 90% of patients reporting a penicillin allergy are not actually allergic to penicillin or other beta-lactams. Inappropriate labeling of antimicrobial allergies has enormous consequences on antimicrobial utilization, and as a result can have a major impact on resistance patterns. The importance of this cannot be understated, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 23,000 people die annually from infections caused by multi-drug resistant organisms, and antibiotic resistance is considered one of the most significant threats to the public health. The CDC states that correctly identifying patients that are not truly allergic to penicillin can decrease inappropriate use of broad-spectrum antibiotics. In addition, mislabeled allergies may result in the use of suboptimal antimicrobials to treat infections, as beta-lactams are generally very effective bactericidal agents that penetrate many organ systems better than other antimicrobial classes.