House approves optometry compromise 116 – 0, now headed to Senate

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The House voted 116-0 on Friday to approve a compromise bill that would end a long-running controversy about expanding the drug-prescribing powers of optometrists.

Optometrists are able to prescribe “topical” drugs, such as drops and creams, but have sought to also prescribe oral drugs.

The bill (HB 239) includes 14 oral drugs that optometrists would be able to prescribe, including certain types of antibiotics and anti-glaucoma drugs. But it also includes limitations, such as barring optometrists from prescribing many types of controlled substances.

Ophthalmologists have long fought the expanded prescribing powers, arguing, in part, that optometrists don’t have the same training as medical doctors. But groups representing ophthalmologists and optometrists said they agreed to the compromise, which also cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

“Over the past several months, the Florida Society of Ophthalmology (FSO) and the Florida Optometric  Association have met repeatedly to discuss how prescribing of oral medications by optometrists could be done in a way that protects the safety of our patients,” said Charles B. Slonim, MD, president of the FSO. “Patient safety has always been the FSO’s number one priority, and I am pleased that both organizations were finally able to come together on this legislation. The FSO is appreciative of Representatives Caldwell, Corcoran, and Nunez, and Senators Richter, Negron, Thrasher, Sobel and Galvano, for their tireless efforts in making sure that the legislation ultimately provided meaningful safeguards for patients.”

It is now headed to the Senate floor.

“We look forward to this bill being heard on the floor of the Senate and will continue to be a resource for members of the legislature as this bill nears the finish line,” said Ken Lawson, Florida Optometric Association’s legislative chair.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

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