Bill would let optometrists prescribe more drugs

Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Alaska House approved a measure Friday that would let optometrists prescribe more types of medication than currently permitted.

Rep. Lisa Murkowski, R-Anchorage, said the bill attempts to address concerns Gov. Tony Knowles raised two years ago when he vetoed a similar bill.

Currently optometrists in Alaska are limited to prescribing topical medications. Alaska is one of only 12 states with such a limit, Murkowski said.

House Bill 215 would allow them to prescribe other pharmaceuticals, but it would not let them inject pharmaceuticals into the eye. And it would require optometrists prescribing drugs to meet additional educational requirements.

Murkowski said those restrictions should address concerns Knowles expressed in his veto message.

Knowles spokesman Bob King said he doesn't know what the governor's position would be this year. The bill would still have to pass the Senate before it hits his desk.

King said the administration would ask the state medical board for its recommendations.

Murkowski said the medical board doesn't support the bill.

The bill was sponsored by the House Labor and Commerce Committee, which Murkowski heads, at the request of a state optometrists' association.

Murkowski said the measure should help patients in rural Alaska, who don't have easy access to an ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in treating eye diseases and can prescribe medication and perform surgery.

The bill passed 22-16, but Anchorage Republican Joe Green gave notice he may bring the bill up for reconsideration Monday.

That means members could change their votes.

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