Objective: We sought to determine the frequency of represcription of penicillin to individuals with penicillin allergy and the risk of a second reaction in those who had a previous reaction.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study was conducted within the UK General Practice Research Database. All patients who had received a prescription for penicillin were identified. Within that source population, records of patients who had received at least 2 prescriptions for penicillin at least 60 days apart were selected and examined for allergic-like (hypersensitivity) events on the day of or within 30 days after a prescription.
Results: At least one prescription for penicillin was given to 3,375,162 patients. Of 6212 (0.18%) patients who experienced an allergic-like event after the initial prescription, 48.5% were given a second prescription compared with 59.8% of those without an initial allergic-like event (risk ratio, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.79-0.83). Two or more prescriptions for penicillin were given to 2,017,957 patients. Three thousand fourteen (0.15%) patients experienced an allergic-like event after the first prescription, and 57 (1.89%) of those had another event after the second prescription. The unadjusted odds ratio of an allergic-like event after the second prescription for those who experienced an allergic-like event after the first prescription, compared with those who had no initial event was 11.2 (95% CI, 8.6-14.6). Adjusting for confounding had no substantive effect on this result.
Conclusion: The risk of an allergic-like event after penicillin is markedly increased in those who have had a prior event, although the absolute difference is small (1.72%). Represcription of penicillin to such patients is more frequent than anticipated.