Optometry bill moves in Senate

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A Senate committee Thursday approved a proposal that would expand the drug-prescribing powers of optometrists, rebuffing arguments of ophthalmologists in the long-running industry fight.

The Senate Health Policy Committee voted 6-3 to approve the measure (SB 278), which also is slated to go before two more Senate panels. A similar proposal (HB 239) has started moving in the House. The proposals would allow optometrists to prescribe oral medications, which would add to their current powers to prescribe “topical” medications, such as drops and creams. Supporters say the changes would help expand access to eye care. But ophthalmologists and other opponents argue that optometrists don’t have as much training as medical doctors in prescribing drugs.

Both sides have amassed teams of lobbyists to try to sway lawmakers on the issue. The Florida Optometric Association has 11 registered lobbyists, while the Florida Society of Ophthalmology has seven. Also, the Florida Medical Association is backing ophthalmologists in the debate.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.