Optometrists Victorious in Florida’s ‘Eyeball Wars,’ Law Will Permit Them to Prescribe Ocular Pharmaceutical Agents

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla.— Florida Senate Bill 278  authorizing optometrists in that state to prescribe ocular pharmaceutical agents was unanimously approved by the Florida Senate yesterday in a 40-0 vote. It had already passed the Florida House of Representatives on Thursday March 21. After it is signed by the Governor of Florida, the bill will become law on July 1, 2013. Prior to the passage of this bill, Florida law limited optometrists to prescribing topical medications only.

The new law authorizes a certified optometrist to administer and prescribe ocular pharmaceutical agents, require a certified optometrist to complete a board-approved course and examination on general and ocular pharmaceutical agents before administering or prescribing those agents, provide conditions under which the holder of an optometric faculty certificate may administer and prescribe oral ocular pharmaceutical agents, and require a clinical laboratory operated by a licensed practitioner of optometry to be licensed under the Optometry Practice Act.

Infamously referred to as the “Eyeball Wars,” the battle has been waged between Florida’s ophthalmologists and optometrists for decades. The Florida Medical Association argued that allowing optometrists to prescribe more than just topical medications could harm patients and ODs. According to a statement from the Florida Optometric Association, “Patients of Florida will have more access to primary eyecare without the added delay in referral and extra copays.”