New York optometrists may be granted the ability to prescribe oral medications for the treatment and prevention of ocular disease pending legislation that would expand their scope of practice. Currently, nearly all states and the District of Columbia make such allowances.

The bill, AO2192/S975A, is currently in the higher education committee in both the state assembly and senate.
“New York needs to put patients first, catch up with the rest of the nation, and allow doctors of optometry to write prescriptions for medications that are sometimes essential to treating ocular conditions most effectively,” says optometrist Dawn Chivers, New York State Optometric Association vice president and legislative chair. “We have the education and training to treat our patients effectively and efficiently.” 

New York, once a trailblazer in many aspects of health care policy, has painfully fallen behind the rest of the country when it comes to eye care, she adds. “Experience in 48 other states clearly demonstrates that this change would benefit patients and decrease health care costs to patients and the health care system. Beginning nearly four decades ago, optometrists in other states started gaining the ability to write prescriptions. Since that time, patient care has improved. No state has ever changed its mind and rolled back optometrists’ treatment powers. To the contrary, other states are expanding the array of drugs and procedures that optometrists are allowed to use to treat patients.”

In New York, optometrists can prescribe the same medications in topical forms— typically in the form of eye drops—but if a patient needs the same medication in a pill, optometrists are forced to send that patient to another health care provider.
The bill requires optometrists to complete a 25-hour, phase-three therapeutic pharmaceutical agent certification course of didactic education, and permits the state commissioner of health to recommend other categories of drugs that may also be prescribed.