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False penicillin allergies limit effective antibiotic choices

Apr 30, 2018 | Failure to Diagnose

A medical study has shown that the majority of people who believe that they have a penicillin allergy, in fact, do not. When wrongly labeled with this allergy, people in New York and elsewhere have their infections treated with alternative antibiotics that tend to be less effective and cost more. The unnecessary use of alternative antibiotics also increases opportunities for bacteria to develop a resistance to strong antibiotics.

Non-penicillin antibiotics present a greater chance of producing harmful side effects in patients, such as kidney damage or even a secondary infection. Children believed to have penicillin allergies often spend more days in hospitals on average than those who are treated with penicillin.

Inaccurate penicillin allergies are widespread and usually have not been confirmed by allergy tests. When clinicians perform allergy tests, penicillin allergies are almost always not present. A study conducted at one children’s hospital tested 100 children whose medical charts indicated that they had experienced mild symptoms related to penicillin allergy. The test results showed that none of them was actually allergic to the drug. A doctor involved with the study recommended that people labeled as allergic to penicillin get the testing. They likely do not have a true allergy, and removing that designation from their medical records could enable them to receive effective infection treatments in the future.

Accurate medical histories and proper interpretations of medical tests are essential for effective treatment. A person harmed because of a doctor’s failure to diagnose an illness might have cause to file a medical malpractice claim. An attorney familiar with the litigation of medical cases could provide insight about how to pursue damages for medical errors. A lawyer could obtain an independent medical opinion about the case and take a medical provider or insurance company to court.