Conference Coverage

Dr. Douglas Paauw: Consider rechallenging patients with penicillin allergy



– As fluoroquinolone warnings stack up, internists seeking treatment alternatives should consider rechallenging patients with penicillin allergy or referring those patients for testing, said Douglas S. Paauw, MD, during a presentation.

Dr. Douglas S. Paauw, University of Washington, Seattle Andrew S. Bowser/MDedge News

Dr. Douglas S. Paauw

This was one of the pieces of advice provided by Dr. Paauw, professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, at the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians.

“The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] has been just killing trees, sending us letters over the last 5-10 years, with fluoroquinolone warnings,” said Dr. Paauw, referencing previous warnings describing risks of tendon rupture, peripheral neuropathy, hypoglycemia, mental health side effects, and more.

“I think the buzz in 2019 is that we should not overreact to a history of penicillin allergy,” he said.

As many as 98% of patients who have reported penicillin allergy don’t have true allergy and can safely receive penicillin, he explained.

“If they don’t have an allergy, make sure you get it out of the electronic record,” Dr. Paauw also advised.

The latest warning on fluoroquinolones from the FDA, issued in Dec. 20, 2018, said that clinicians should avoid prescribing these antibiotics in patients who have, or are at risk of, aortic aneurysm. This comprises a very large proportion of patients in an internist’s practice, Dr. Paauw noted. The warning specifically singled out elderly patients as being in the at-risk population, along with patients who have peripheral atherosclerotic vascular diseases, hypertension, or genetic conditions such as Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, he added.

Dr. Paauw further supported his suggestions by describing two relevant studies.

In one of those studies, which was published this year in an allergy and asthma journal, 20 subjects with a history of penicillin allergy agreed to direct oral amoxicillin rechallenge by an allergist, he said. None of those 20 patients were observed to have developed immediate or delayed hypersensitivity reactions, investigators reported. That study included a total of 50 adults with a penicillin allergy label, of whom 24 (48%) had the label removed from their medical records.

In another recent and reassuring study, penicillin allergy testing was conducted in 100 children with parent-reported penicillin allergy that was considered low risk based on reported symptoms, Dr. Paauw said. Of that group, all 100 children were found to be negative for true penicillin allergy.

Dr. Paauw had no relevant disclosures.

SOURCE: Paauw DS. Annual Meeting of the American College of Physicians, Presentation MTP 013.

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