The Eye War Has Started
Dubbed the “eye war,” the issue centers on whether optometrists should be able to prescribe oral medications. They now are limited to prescribing what are known as “topical” medications, such as drops or creams, and have to send patients to ophthalmologists for conditions requiring oral drugs.
The House Health Quality Subcommittee voted 10-3 to expand the optometrists’ powers, giving them an initial victory in a battle that will play out during the upcoming legislative session.
A bill sponsored by Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, said optometrists are not currently allowed to practice to the full extent of their training. He also said optometrists are allowed to prescribe oral medications, to varying degrees, in 47 other states.
In one of the Capitol’s longest-running industry fights, a House panel Thursday approved a bill that would expand the drug-prescribing powers of optometrists — an idea that is fiercely opposed by ophthalmologists and other medical doctors.
Opponents, however, contend that optometrists don’t have the same type of training as ophthalmologists and say the bill would not do enough to protect patients such as seniors, who might be on numerous medications and could have harmful reactions if drugs are not prescribed properly
The bill (HB 239) is slated to go next to the House Health and Human Services Committee. A similar measure (SB 278) has been filed in the Senate but has not gone before a committee.
Under the House proposal, optometrists would be required to complete a course and an exam before they would be allowed to prescribe oral medications. The Florida Optometric Association and the Florida Medical Association — two foes on the prescribing issue — would jointly develop and administer the course and exam.
“This bill’s been around nearly as long as I’ve been alive,” said Caldwell.