3rd January 2024

With the launch of our new e-learning course, ‘Understanding Penicillin Allergy Assessment and Delabelling’, Neil Powell, Consultant Antimicrobial Pharmacist and Associate Director of Antimicrobial Stewardship at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, explores why we need to reexamine penicillin allergy labels and explains why many patients are missing out on the best treatment options…

Penicillin antibiotics are first line for many infections in hospitalized patients. They’re effective, often have a narrower antibiotic spectrum of action, are well-tolerated, and often more cost-effective compared to alternatives like quinolones or glycopeptides.

However, around 15% of hospitalized patients have a “penicillin allergy” label in their medical records, which means they’re denied first-line therapy. But here’s the thing: studies show that up to 95% of these patients could safely tolerate penicillin after allergy testing. That means a significant number of patients are missing out on the best treatment option due to an inaccurate label.

Delabelling, or removing the penicillin allergy label for those who don’t truly have an allergy, has several benefits:

  • Improved patient care: Patients can receive the most effective treatment for their infection, potentially leading to better outcomes and reduced side effects.
  • Reduced antibiotic resistance: Penicillins are narrow-spectrum antibiotics, meaning they target specific bacteria, reducing the risk of antibiotic resistance compared to broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Who should take this course?

This course is designed for healthcare workers who want to gain the knowledge and skills to confidently identify low-risk penicillin allergy records and discuss delabeling with patients.

What participants can expect:

  • Understand the current context of penicillin allergies and delabeling practices.
  • Learn how to assess penicillin allergy records and identify low-risk cases.
  • Gain confidence in discussing delabeling with patients.

Long-term impact:

By upskilling healthcare workers to safely assess penicillin allergy records, we can:

  • Provide more patients with access to first-line antibiotic treatment options.
  • Improve individual treatment outcomes.
  • Reduce the risk of antibiotic-related side effects.
  • Slow the spread of antibiotic resistance.

You can find our new e-learning course, ‘Understanding Penicillin Allergy Assessment and Delabelling’ here.


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