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Fla. bill increases access to eye health care at reduced costs

May 2, 2013

The Florida Optometric Association (FOA) announced Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s signing of the Florida optometry drug bill April 19. The expansive bill authorizes Florida optometrists to prescribe oral drugs for the diagnosis and treatment of the eye and its appendages and establishes the Board of Optometry as solely responsible for the formulary of topical pharmaceutical agents for optometrists.

“This bill is the result of years of hard work by many members of the Florida Optometric Association and they are to be congratulated for their victory,” said AOA President Ron Hopping, O.D., MPH.

“This bill increases access to eye health care at reduced cost both to Floridians and insurers such as Florida Medicaid,” said Kenneth Lawson, O.D., FOA legislative chair.

This is the first time optometrists in the state have received express authority to prescribe oral drugs and also includes the ability to receive a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) number. The new law specifies the antibiotics, antivirals, analgesics and carbonic anhydrase inhibitor allowed and authorizes the use of injections for the treatment of anaphylaxis.

The bill abolishes the Topical Ocular Pharmaceutical Committee and establishes the Board of Optometry as the sole determiner of the formulary of topical pharmaceutical agents.

“This change will greatly expedite our ability to timely add any new topically applied ocular medications approved by our board to our list of useable drugs,” said Dr. Lawson.

Florida ODs are also now included in the list of medical practitioners authorized to operate clinical laboratories, submit specimens for examination by clinical labs and bill for in-office cultures and tests.

Florida law previously permitted only ophthalmologists to perform dilated eye exams for boxing exhibitions and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights, but now authorizes certified optometrists to perform them as well.

Florida statutes now for the first time codify optometrists’ ability to co-manage post-operative care using the same documentation requirements and rules as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The bill further defines surgery and expressly recognizes the following as within the scope of optometric care:

  • removing eyelashes by epilation
  • probing un-inflamed naso-lacrimal ducts in patients 18 or older
  • punctal plugs
  • superficial scraping for the purpose of removing damaged epithelial tissue or foreign bodies
  • superficial scraping for the purpose of taking a culture of the cornea or conjunctiva
  • removal of foreign bodies that have not penetrated the globe.

The law now adds the “adverse incident reporting” requirements that apply to other Florida licensed medical practitioners as applicable to ODs, but limits them to adverse incidents stemming from the use or prescription of oral pharmaceutical agents.

“As a fourth-generation Floridian, I am proud to say that optometrists in Florida are now better suited to serve as the primary eye health care provider to the residents of our state,” said Dr. Lawson.

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