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.