Penicillin Allergy Maybe Not? the Military Relevance for Penicillin Testing and De-labeling

Rachel U. Lee, Taylor A. Banks, Kirk H. Waibel, Rechell G. Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction Penicillin allergy is the most common drug allergy reported. About 8-10% of individuals in the USA have a documented penicillin allergy, yet 90% are not truly allergic to penicillin. A penicillin allergy "label" results in increased antibiotic-related adverse reactions and increased health care costs, thus impacting the overall "readiness" of the military. Materials and Methods A review of the current literature and approaches to penicillin allergy and "de-labeling" a patient who reports penicillin allergy was conducted and future strategies to identify and assess military beneficiaries were outlined. Military allergists had a formal discussion at the Tri-service Military Allergy Immunology Assembly regarding the state of penicillin allergy testing in military allergy clinics. Results A PubMed search yielded 5,775 results for "penicillin allergy" and 484 results for "penicillin allergy testing." There were two formalized penicillin testing programs in the military treatment facilities. In 2017, the military trained nearly 165,000 new recruits. If 5-10% reported a penicillin allergy and 90% were de-labeled, that would yield a $15-30 million cost savings annually. Further, de-labeling of the 9.4 million active duty, beneficiaries and retirees with a 90% success rate could result in even greater savings for the military health care system. Conclusion A penicillin allergy label is a risk to military readiness secondary to associated increases in the length of hospitalizations and emergency department and medical visits. Penicillin de-labeling is a simple intervention that can improve readiness, significantly decrease health care costs and prevent antibiotic resistance, as well as antibiotic-associated adverse events. The military allergist should be "front and center" providing expertise guidance and leadership for clinic and hospital-based penicillin de-labeling efforts which are nested within the antibiotic stewardship programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E163-E168
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • antibiotic resistance
  • antibiotic stewardship
  • drug allergy
  • penicillin allergy
  • penicillin allergy de-labeling


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