A bill that would add oral antibiotics, oral antivirals, oral antifungals, oral antihistamines and oral glaucoma agents to Georgia optometrists scope of practice passed both the Georgia House and Senate and is currently awaiting the Governors signature for final approval. Once the bill is signed, it will take effect July 1.

Its a big sigh of relief, says optometrist John Whitlow, legislative chair of the Georgia Optometric Association. Dr. Whitlow adds that the GOA has been working for the past 10 years to get the bill passed.

The only change in the current legislation, known as SB17, is the restriction of steroids to topical use only. We felt this was a good compromise to get the bill going, Dr. Whitlow says.

This bill will improve the quality and timeliness of care, he adds. I had a patient who came in three months ago who needed an oral antibiotic. I told him if we were 20 miles west of here, I could prescribe it for him, Dr. Whitlow says. (He is also licensed to practice in Alabama, which is just 20 miles from his Georgia practice.) Instead, Dr. Whitlow says, he referred the patient to a local ophthalmologist, who could not see the patient for several months. As a result, the patient had to drive 50 miles away to find appropriate treatment.

Now, we can practice full-scope optometry, Dr. Whitlow says.

Vol. No: 144:05Issue: 5/15/2007