Impact of a clinical guideline for prescribing antibiotics to inpatients reporting penicillin or cephalosporin allergy

Kimberly G Blumenthal, Erica S Shenoy, Christy A Varughese, Shelley Hurwitz, David C Hooper, Aleena Banerji
Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 2015, 115 (4): 294-300.e2

BACKGROUND: Self-reported penicillin allergy infrequently reflects an inability to tolerate penicillins. Inpatients reporting penicillin allergy receive alternative antibiotics that might be broader spectrum, more toxic, or less effective.

OBJECTIVE: To develop and assess a clinical guideline for the general inpatient provider that directs taking a history and prescribing antibiotics for patients with penicillin or cephalosporin allergy.

METHODS: A guideline was implemented to assist providers with assessing allergy history and prescribing antibiotics for patients with reported penicillin or cephalosporin allergy. The guideline used a standard 2-step graded challenge or test dose. A quasi-experimental study was performed to assess safety, feasibility, and impact on antibiotic use by comparing treatment 21 months before guideline implementation with 12 months after guideline implementation.

RESULTS: Significantly more test doses to β-lactam antibiotics were performed monthly after vs before guideline implementation (median 14.5, interquartile range 13-16.25, vs 2, interquartile range 1-3.25, P < .001). Seven adverse drug reactions occurred during guideline-driven test doses, with no significant difference in rate (3.9% vs 6.1%, P = .44) or severity (P > .5) between periods. Guideline-driven test doses decreased alternative antimicrobial therapy after the test dose, including vancomycin (68.3% vs 37.2%, P < .001), aztreonam (11.5% vs 0.5%, P < .001), aminoglycosides (6.0% vs 1.1%, P = .004), and fluoro quinolones (15.3% vs 3.3%, P < .001).

CONCLUSION: The implementation of an inpatient antibiotic prescribing guideline for patients with penicillin or cephalosporin allergy was associated with an almost 7-fold increase in the number of test doses to β-lactams without increased adverse drug reactions. Patients assessed with guideline-driven test doses were observed to have significantly decreased alternative antibiotic exposure.


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