Allergy Drug Allergy Desensitization Program

Drug Allergy and Desensitization Program

The Massachusetts General Hospital Drug Allergy and Desensitization Program evaluates drug allergies (adverse drug reactions) and conducts drug challenges and drug desensitizations to help patients tolerate many different drugs, including chemotherapy, antibiotics, aspirin and anesthetic agents.
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Contact us: 617-726-3850

Overview

Our Goal: The Most Effective Treatment

At the Mass General Drug Allergy and Desensitization Program, our goal is to enable our patients to receive their full treatment safely (if truly necessary) despite a previous allergic reaction. For many of our patients, this had been impossible before evaluation and treatment at Mass General.

By providing expert evaluation of many different classes of drugs, we aim to ensure patients can safely complete therapy with the most effective medication to treat their condition. We most commonly evaluate patients who have possible adverse reactions to:

  • Chemotherapy: for various forms of cancer
  • Antibiotics: for various infectious diseases
  • Aspirin: for heart disease
  • Anesthetic agents, including both general and local anesthetics

Because the field is relatively new and expertise is lacking, few academic centers offer drug skin testing, challenges and desensitization.  The novel nature of this drug allergy program combines clinical research methods with methods of quality improvement, process improvement, and economic analyses to improve patient outcomes. Our allergists' leadership and experience in clinical care and research, practice of staying abreast of the current literature and ability to offer drug challenges and desensitizations are key reasons why Mass General excels in managing drug allergies.

What to Expect

At your initial evaluation, your physician will discuss your medical history and any previous allergic reactions, and conduct a thorough physical examination. We then will schedule skin and/or blood tests if appropriate.

If your history and/or testing confirms a drug allergy, we first consider whether you can take an alternative drug to treat your condition. If not, we may recommend a drug challenge or drug desensitization.

Drug Challenge: We will perform a drug challenge under close monitoring and supervision if your evaluation suggests you are unlikely to experience an allergic reaction to the medication. During the challenge, we will give you one to two doses of the medication in increasing amounts—carefully monitoring you for any reactions along the way—to ensure you can tolerate the full intended treatment dose.

Drug Desensitization: We will perform a drug desensitization if your evaluation suggests you are at significant risk for suffering an allergic reaction to the medication. Desensitization involves taking escalating doses of the medication at a very slow rate of progression until reaching the optimal dose. Safety is always our first priority. Because drug desensitization carries certain risks, we often complete the procedure in a Mass General inpatient unit. Our entire team's experience with drug desensitizations helps us to anticipate possible complications and address them quickly and successfully.

Where appropriate, we work with other world-class specialists at Mass General (e.g. oncologists, infectious disease specialists, cardiologists) to develop your treatment plan.

About this Program

Diagnosing & Treating Drug Allergy

The Mass General Drug Allergy and Desensitization Program offers a full range of diagnostic and therapeutic services at our main campus in downtown Boston. Allergists at Mass General Waltham are available for initial consultations as well.

We provide expert evaluation of many different classes of drugs. This is one of the only programs in the United States to test for allergies to drug types such as:

  • Antibiotics
  • Chemotherapy agents
  • Steroids
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Local anesthetics
  • General anesthetics

Depending on the patient's clinical history and whether an acceptable alternative drug exists, we may follow up initial skin and/or blood testing (when appropriate) with a drug challenge or drug desensitization.

Leadership in the Field

Aleena Banerji, MD, one of the founders of the Drug Allergy and Desensitization Program and an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, is known nationally for her expertise in this area. Through her research and clinical efforts, she has improved methods of evaluating drugs so we can administer a full dose of the most effective therapy for the patient's condition.

Kim Blumenthal, MD, MSc has clinical and research expertise in drug allergy, and specific interest in antibiotic allergies.  She is recognized nationally for having created innovative approaches to the evaluation of penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics in the hospital.

Educating the Next Generation

We are dedicated to preparing the next generation of academic clinicians and basic scientists in allergy and immunology. Fellows in the Allergy and Immunology Training Program receive clinical and research training in drug allergy and all other major conditions. Internal medicine residents also gain exposure to drug-allergy patients as part of their general training.

Our Allergists

  • Banerji, Aleena, MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Drug hypersensitivity
    • Angioedema
    • Asthma
    • Immunodeficiency
    • Rhinosinusitis
    • Cough
    • Anaphylaxis
    • Eosinophilic disorders
    • Food sensitivity
    • Dermatitis
    • Urticaria
    Board Certifications
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Allergy and Immunology
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
    • Waltham: MGH Waltham Allergy
  • Blumenthal, Kimberly G., MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Drug hypersensitivity
    Board Certifications
    • Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Allergy and Immunology
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
  • Conroy, Michelle E., MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Board Certifications
    • Pediatrics, American Board of Pediatrics
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Allergy and Immunology
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
    • Waltham: MGH Waltham Allergy
  • Dutta, Ellen J., MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Angioedema
    • Eosinophilic disorders
    • Asthma
    • Immunodeficiency
    • Rhinosinusitis
    • Cough
    • Dermatitis
    • Urticaria
    • Food sensitivity
    • Immunology
    • Anaphylaxis
    • Nasal polyps
    Board Certifications
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Allergy and Immunology
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
    • Waltham: MGH Waltham Allergy
  • Hamilos, Daniel Lee, MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Rhinosinusitis
    • Nasal polyps
    • Eosinophilic disorders
    • Immunodeficiency
    • Asthma
    • Immunology
    • Cough
    • Dermatitis
    • Drug hypersensitivity
    • Urticaria
    • Food sensitivity
    • Anaphylaxis
    • Angioedema
    Board Certifications
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Allergy and Immunology
    • Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology, American Board of Internal Medicine
    • Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
    • Waltham: MGH Waltham Allergy
  • Hesterberg, Paul E., MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Asthma
    • Immunodeficiency
    • Rhinosinusitis
    • Cough
    • Anaphylaxis
    • Eosinophilic disorders
    • Angioedema
    • Drug hypersensitivity
    • Food sensitivity
    • Dermatitis
    • Urticaria
    • Immunology
    • Nasal polyps
    Board Certifications
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Allergy and Immunology
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
    • Waltham: MGH Waltham Allergy
  • Ling, Morris F., MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Asthma
    • Rhinosinusitis
    • Food allergy
    • Food sensitivity
    • Urticaria
    • Contact dermatitis (allergic)
    • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
    • Drug hypersensitivity
    • Immunology
    • Immunodeficiency
    • Angioedema
    • Eosinophilic disorders
    Board Certifications
    • Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Allergy and Immunology
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
    • Waltham: MGH Waltham Allergy
  • Long, Aidan Angelo, MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Asthma
    • Immunodeficiency
    • Rhinosinusitis
    • Cough
    • Drug hypersensitivity
    • Dermatitis
    • Urticaria
    • Immunology
    • Food sensitivity
    • Anaphylaxis
    • Angioedema
    • Eosinophilic disorders
    • Nasal polyps
    Board Certifications
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Allergy and Immunology
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
    • Waltham: MGH Waltham Allergy
  • MacLean, James A., MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Allergic rhinitis
    • Asthma
    • Latex allergy
    • Urticaria
    • Drug hypersensitivity
    • Food allergy
    Board Certifications
    • Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Internal Medicine
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
  • Murali, Mandakolathur R., MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Eosinophilic disorders
    • Asthma
    • Immunodeficiency
    • Rhinosinusitis
    • Cough
    • Drug hypersensitivity
    • Dermatitis
    • Angioedema
    • Food sensitivity
    • Urticaria
    • Immunology
    • Anaphylaxis
    • Nasal polyps
    Board Certifications
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Allergy and Immunology
    • Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
    • Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology, American Board of Internal Medicine
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
  • Ostro, Martin George, MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Asthma
    • Rhinosinusitis
    • Urticaria
    Board Certifications
    • Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Internal Medicine
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
  • Patil, Sarita U., MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Board Certifications
    • Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Internal Medicine
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
  • Saff, Rebecca R., MD, PhD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Board Certifications
    • Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Allergy and Immunology
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
    • Waltham: MGH Waltham Allergy
  • Sokol, Caroline L., MD, PhD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Board Certifications
    • Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Allergy and Immunology
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
    • Boston: Medical Walk In Unit
  • Wilson, Michael Terry, MD, PhD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Rhinosinusitis
    • Asthma
    • Anaphylaxis
    • Urticaria
    • Chronic hives
    • Cough
    • Immunodeficiency
    • Angioedema
    • Eosinophilic disorders
    • Contact dermatitis (allergic)
    • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
    Board Certifications
    • Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Allergy and Immunology
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
    • Waltham: MGH Waltham Allergy
  • Wolfson, Anna R., MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Allergic rhinitis
    • Food allergy
    • Asthma
    • Urticaria
    • Immunology
    • Drug hypersensitivity
    Board Certifications
    • Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Internal Medicine
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates
    • Waltham: MGH Waltham Allergy
  • Wong, Johnson Tai, MD

    617-726-3850

    Accepting New Patients

    Clinical Interests
    • Asthma
    • Immunodeficiency
    • Dermatitis
    • Urticaria
    • Immunology
    • Rhinosinusitis/Headache
    • Cough
    • Drug hypersensitivity
    • Food sensitivity
    Board Certifications
    • Allergy & Immunology, American Board of Internal Medicine
    • Internal Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine
    Locations
    • Boston: Allergy Associates

News

  • Are you really allergic? - 4/8/2016, Mass General

    One morning in late March, 26-year-old Claire Branman learned that sometimes mothers don’t always know best. This realization came after she visited the allergy testing room on the second floor of Cox – an area of the MGH where patients can walk in with a medical question and walk out about three hours later with a definitive answer.

Access Partners Patient Gateway

Contact us: 617-726-3850

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