AUSTIN—Texas optometrists scored a significant win on June 11 when Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that expands their scope of practice to include the authority to prescribe oral eye medications and independently manage glaucoma. The news was first reported by the American Optometric Association. The new law, originally known as S.B. 993, will take effect Sept. 1, 2021. It updates Texas’ optometric scope of practice act to grant therapeutic optometrists’ authority to independently manage glaucoma patients instead of requiring that they be co-managed with an ophthalmologist.

Additionally, the law will allow Texas OD to prescribe any oral medication used to treat eye conditions. The measure, which has been in the works for years, was supported by both Democratic and Republication legislators. It represents the first major scope of practice expansion in Texas in over 20 years.

“This law is a big win for Texas’ patients,” Steve Nguyen, OD, Texas Optometric Association (TOA) president told the AOA. “It has been very inefficient, and in some cases more costly, for patients to get the eyecare they need for conditions that require oral medication prescriptions. Oftentimes, we had to send the patient elsewhere or get a different health care professional to write the needed prescription, which only served to delay the patient’s care or cause them additional inconvenience.

“Also, required glaucoma co-management was inhibiting patient care, hurting treatment plan compliance and adding costs to patients and payers. Now, patients will be able to get the eyecare services that they need at the time they need them, directly from their optometrist.”

Specifically, the scope expansion will permit doctors to prescribe any oral medication used to treat eye conditions, excepting Schedules I and II controlled substances, while also authorizing doctors to diagnose, treat and manage glaucoma independently, according to AOA.

Texas is the fourth state this year, following Mississippi, Wyoming and New York, to significantly expand the scope of optometric practice.