Is your child ‘allergic’ to a safe antibiotic?

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A new study aims to find out if thousands of Australian children are missing out on effective healthcare because they have been wrongly labelled as allergic to one of the safest antibiotic treatments.

Participants are being recruited to take part in the research at Pindara Private Hospital on the Gold Coast over the next year.

Funded by the Ramsay Hospital Research Foundation, it comes after a parliamentary enquiry into allergy and anaphylaxis described an “urgent need to ‘de-label’ patients from their unproven drug allergies”.

“More than 10 percent of the population report being allergic to penicillin, however, around 90 percent of people labelled as ‘allergic’ do not have a true allergy,” said Dr Amy Whittaker, chief researcher of the Penicillin Allergy De-Labelling in Paediatric Outpatients (PADLPOP) study.

“This creates significant issues for their future healthcare,” she added. 

“Often a penicillin is the safest and most effective treatment for them, but doctors are pushed to use other drugs that may be less effective, promote antibiotic resistance or have a side-effect profile that is less desirable than trusty old penicillin.”

(L-R) Patient Rosie and her mother Kate with Dr Amy Whittaker

Study participants will be followed up for a further year after the initial 12-month phase, with the results used to support the development of penicillin allergy assessment services for providing the best clinical care during childhood and later life.

The study was designed by a team of specialists from Pindara Private Hospital’s Clinical Trials Unit and Emergency Department, plus its pharmacists, along with paediatricians from the local Leading Steps clinics.

“Whilst it has been shown to be safe to undertake allergy testing on patients who are at ‘low risk’ of having a true allergy, we understand it can be daunting for families,” Dr Whittaker said.

“By conducting the testing in our friendly Emergency Department, families have the reassurance that their child’s safety is ensured.” 

Parents with children who have been labelled as allergic to penicillin can register their interest in taking part in the study by contacting Pindara Private Hospital’s Clinical Trials Unit.

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