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No. 3: Rhode Island law amended to permit diagnostic drugs

August 21, 2013

Editor’s Note: To commemorate 50 years of groundbreaking news in optometry, we are publishing the Top 10 AOA News stories as selected by our readers from all five decades. Please share your commentary and personal stories on the site as well (http://connect. aoa.org). The AOA News ran the following article in August 1971.

Rhode Island has become the first state to have a law explicitly giving optometrists the authority to administer diagnostic drugs.

Gov. Frank Licht signed the new optometry act July 16, following its passage July 14 by the Rhode Island Senate.

The senate vote was 25 to 16.

The new law, strongly advocated by the Rhode Island Optometric Association, reads in part:

“Optometry is defined as the profession whose practitioners are engaged in the art and science of the evaluation of vision and the examination of vision and the examination and refraction of the human eye which includes:…the topical application of drugs to the eye, to wit, mydriatics, miotics, and the use of topical anesthetics, provided however, that no optometrist licensed in this state shall treat by the use of these drugs or attempt to perform any surgery and shall be used only for the purpose of detecting any diseased or pathological condition of the eye or the effects of any disease or pathological condition of the eye….”

The bill requires presently licensed optometrists who wish to utilize diagnostic drugs to satisfactorily complete a pharmacology course at an accredited institution and to successfully complete a state examination given by the board of examiners in optometry. The new law also specifies that the state examination for licensure shall include pharmacology.

The previous law defined optometry as “the employment of any method or means other than the use of drugs, medicine or surgery, for the ascertainment of visual defects or ocular muscular imbalances and the application of lenses and prisms for the correction thereof.”

Changed to identify optometry as a profession, the new law also spells out the optometrist’s authority to perform vision training and orthoptics and fit contact lenses.

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