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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday that will allow optometrists to prescribe oral medications, ending a long-running lobbying battle about the issue.

Lawmakers approved the bill (HB 239) after optometrists and ophthalmologists reached a compromise that includes allowing optometrists to prescribe 14 oral medications, such as antibiotics and anti-glaucoma drugs.

Optometrists already have been able to prescribe “topical” drugs, such as drops and creams, but proposals to expand those powers to oral medications ran into years of opposition from ophthalmologists.

Optometrists had to refer patients to ophthalmologists for conditions requiring drugs taken by mouth.

Optometrists are not medical doctors and generally do not have the same authority to write prescriptions like ophthalmologists who are medical or osteopathic physicians.

The Florida Optometric Association reported that 47 other states allow optometrists to prescribe oral medication to treat eye diseases.

In a news release Friday, Ken Lawson, legislative chairman of the Florida Optometric Association, said the bill will help expand access to eye care. “The end result of this legislation represents a thoroughly-vetted, collective effort on behalf of all impacted parties that will allow Floridians to get the most appropriate treatment for their eye condition from an optometrist,” Lawson said.

“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”



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