Redesigning prescriptions to include information on drugs or drug classes that patients with known drug allergies should avoid can reduce the risk of allergic reactions, according to the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Providing this information could help avoid patients with known allergies wrongly receiving drugs that could endanger their health.
While all drugs can have side effects, some can lead to allergic reactions caused by drug intolerance. Drugs often responsible for allergic reactions include antibiotics, general anesthesia and painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
In certain cases, the reaction can be severe. Each year about 62,000 people are admitted to hospitals after experiencing a serious allergic reaction to a drug. Between 2005 and 2013, there were 18,079 such incidents, including six deaths, and 19 people who were severely harmed.
People with drug allergies currently are being prescribed or administered drugs to which they are allergic for several reasons, including poor clinical documentation of drug allergy, the lack of patient information on drug allergy and the lack of a routine system in place for people to keep a record of their own drug allergies.
To tackle this, NICE has published a new guideline on the diagnosis and management of drug allergy in adults, children and young people. The guideline recommends that when a person presents with suspected drug allergy, the reaction should be documented in a structured approach.
Among the information included should be the generic and proprietary name of the drug or drugs suspected to have caused the reaction, including the strength and formulation, a description of the reaction and the date and time of the reaction.
NICE recommends paper or electronic prescriptions in any healthcare setting should be standardized and redesigned to record information on which drugs or drug classes to avoid, to reduce the risk of drug allergy.
The guideline recommends a method for prioritizing the thorough assessment of any person who is suspected of having a drug allergy and details what signs to look for.
Dr. Shuaib Nasser, consultant allergist, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge and chair of the guideline development group, said, “Wrongly prescribing drugs to people with known allergies puts them at serious risk of harm, but we know this can be avoided. It is important that this is done, as some allergic reactions can be fatal. People should be provided with structured written information on drugs to avoid and be advised to check with their pharmacist before taking over-the-counter medicines.”
Professor Mark Baker, director of the Center for Clinical Practice at NICE, said, “About half a million people admitted into NHS hospitals each year will have a diagnosed drug allergy. This new guideline encourages all healthcare professionals to be alert to the possibility of drug allergies and offers best practice on clinical management to ensure every individual is spared from serious harm.”