From the Bayou to sunny California, ODs are fighting for expanded scope of practice laws in three states during this heated legislative session. Here’s a rundown on the latest developments as of press time:
• Louisiana. A controversial expanded scope of practice law was put on hold earlier this month after the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Frank Hoffman, put the bill back on the calendar. House Bill 527 would have allowed optometrists to administer medication by injection as well as perform many eye surgeries, including several eye laser and incisional procedures. The Louisiana House Committee on Health and Welfare approved the bill April 17, but the legislation was never heard on the House floor.
The legislation would have allowed optometrists to administer medication by any appropriate means and perform laser procedures, including Nd:YAG, peripheral iridotomy and selective laser trabeculoplasty, and the optometry board to control the practice of optometry, all with the intent of improving access to care.
• Georgia. HB 235, which would allow optometrists to prescribe oral steroids for up to 14 days, has gained steam over its Louisiana counterpart. Under the bill, optometrists would also be able to continue to prescribe hydrocodone for up to 48 hours even if the federal government changes it to a schedule II drug.
The legislation also allows the use of different ways to disseminate medication aside from oral and topical mechanisms. This would allow for the prescription of contact lenses that distribute medication, and nasal sprays. However, the legislation maintains a prohibition on the use of injectables and surgery.
Finally, the legislation would change the current law regarding continuing education requirements. Current law exempts those licensed optometrists age 65 and over from having to take continuing education in order to maintain an optometric license in Georgia. The bill would eliminate that exemption.
Georgia governor Nathan Deal signed the bill into law on May 6.
• California. Senate Bill 492 would expand the practice parameters of optometrists who are certified to use therapeutic pharmaceutical agents by removing certain limitations on their practice and adding certain responsibilities, including, but not limited to, the ability to immunize and treat certain diseases, and deleting the specified drugs the optometrist would be authorized to use, and authorizing the optometrist to use all appropriate therapeutic pharmaceutical agents approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
SB 492 would also delete limitations on what kinds of diagnostic tests an optometrist could order, and instead would authorize an optometrist to order appropriate laboratory and diagnostic imaging tests.
The bill currently is with the Committee on Appropriations.