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Molecular-based allergy diagnostics in the real world: evidence for a cost explosion and an impact vacuum


Molecular-based allergy (MA) diagnostics are used to identify patient sensitization to individual allergen components. Despite a recent consensus statement, the clinical utility of MA diagnostics in routine practice remains unclear.


To review the cost and usage patterns of MA diagnostics at a regional level and to estimate the clinical value of such testing strategies.


Laboratory data on Northern Ireland MA diagnostics ordering between 2010 and 2013 was obtained. Data specific to Regional Immunology Service patients from 2013 was further interrogated. A retrospective review of case records from adults (n=70) and children (n=53) was carried out to determine the impact of MA test results.


MA testing has increased annually since its introduction in 2010. Spending on MA diagnostics exceeded £20,000 in 2013. Increases in test numbers were observed across a range of allergen groups during the time period and suggests routine ordering (Figure 1). Analysis of request sources indicated a surge in test numbers across 5 key user hospital units (Figure 2). Additionally, a marked increase in MA diagnostics orders from non-specialist sources was noted.

figure 1

Figure 1

figure 2

Figure 2

Use of MA diagnostics introduced a mean increase in cost of 156% in adults (range 11%-900%) and 197% in children (range 9%-600%)(Table 1). Review of individual cases indicated that MA diagnostics had no specific impact on diagnosis or management in 78.6% of adults and 83.0% of children.

Table 1


This study suggests that the use of MA diagnostics is entering routine clinical practice and is associated with a cost premium. The minimal clinical impact of these testing modalities argues for the establishment of demand management programs in resource-constrained environments.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Conlon, N., Devlin, L., Steele, C. et al. Molecular-based allergy diagnostics in the real world: evidence for a cost explosion and an impact vacuum. Clin Transl Allergy 5 (Suppl 3), O3 (2015).

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