Allowing KY Optometrists to Dispense Contact Lenses that Contain Medications
Medical advances are being made every day in the world of eye care and it is imperative that optometrists in Kentucky have no barriers that would prevent them from providing the care their patient’s need.
Currently, contact lenses are being developed that contain medications; in fact one company has already submitted one to the FDA for approval that would contain eye allergy medications. These lenses will most likely be classified as “drugs” not devices; therefore preventing Kentucky optometrists from dispensing them.
While contact lens fitting and prescribing is a traditional practice of Kentucky optometry, Kentucky law did not allow optometrists to dispense drugs even though they can prescribe drugs for eye conditions.
Knowing that these lenses could be on the market in 2009, the Kentucky Optometric Association (KOA) worked with the McCarthy Strategic Solutions’ (MSS) team to pass legislation to ensure that Kentuckians would have access to the lenses as soon as they were on the market.
The Kentucky Medical Association (KMA) was our biggest opponent claiming the legislation would expand the scope of practice for an optometrist and was dangerous and premature since the lenses were not yet on the market.
Since physicians could already prescribe and dispense drugs, this meant that ophthalmologists did not need authorization to prescribe or dispense these lenses and without the law change they would have a monopoly in this area of practice.
By working directly with the Kentucky Pharmacy Board, we drafted language that would allow optometrists to dispense these contact lenses containing medication only, no other drugs.
The KOA and MSS team worked diligently during the legislative session educating all members of the Kentucky House of Representatives and Kentucky State Senate to combat all of the scare tactics brought forth by the KMA.
By securing the support of Senator Julie Denton (Chair, Senate Health & Welfare Committee) and Representative Tom Burch (Chair, House Health & Welfare Committee) the legislation passed overwhelmingly out of each committee despite intense lobby from the KMA. Once the bill moved to the floor of each chamber for a full vote, our relationships within leadership on both sides of the aisle in each chamber made the difference. By working directly with Senate President David L. Williams, Majority Floor Leader Dan Kelly, Speaker Jody Richards and Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins the legislation passed both the Senate and House chambers almost unanimously (House: 91-1; Senate 36-0).
On April 14, 2008, Governor Steve Beshear signed Senate Bill 21 into law which now allows optometrists to prescribe and dispense contact lenses containing medications once they are FDA approved and available on the market.