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New law expands optometrists’ prescribing powers



Tallahassee, FL-Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill on April 19 that will allow optometrists to prescribe oral medications, ending a long-running lobbying battle about the issue.

Lawmakers approved House Bill 239 after optometrists and ophthalmologists reached a compromise that included allowing optometrists to prescribe 14 oral medications, such as antibiotics and anti-glaucoma drugs after taking a course and passing an exam. Additionally, the measure clarifies that optometrists cannot perform surgery and requires them to report any adverse medical outcomes to the state, as ophthalmologists are required to do today.

Optometrists had already been able to prescribe topical drugs, but proposals to expand those powers to oral medications ran into years of opposition from ophthalmologists. Optometrists had to refer patients to ophthalmologists for conditions requiring drugs taken by mouth.

The Florida Optometric Association reported that 47 other states allow optometrists to prescribe oral medication to treat eye diseases.

In a news release last week, Ken Lawson, legislative chairman of the Florida Optometric Association, said the bill will help expand access to eyecare. “The end result of this legislation represents a thoroughly-vetted, collective effort on behalf of all impacted parties that will allow Floridians to get the most appropriate treatment for their eye condition from an optometrist,” Lawson said.

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