U.S. Virgin Islands legislature approves expansion of optometric scope of practiceSeptember 5, 2012
On July 18, 2012, U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. John P. de Jongh, Jr. (D) signed Act 7376 into law expanding the scope of practice for optometrists by authorizing the use of diagnostic drugs and the prescription of certain topical and oral drugs to diagnose and treat eye disease.
The U.S. Virgin Islands becomes the largest of the U.S. territories or commonwealths to expand the scope of practice for optometrists since legislation was enacted in the territory of Guam authorizing diagnostic pharmaceutical agents (DPAs) in December 1982 and therapeutic pharmaceutical agents (TPAs) in April 1995, and in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico authorizing DPAs in August 1999.
There are approximately 110,000 residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands and fewer than a dozen practicing optometrists.
“Similar to laws passed in the first wave of expansion efforts in the U.S. states through the 1970s and 1980s, this act represents a good first effort by the optometrists in the U.S. Virgin Islands to expand the scope of services they are able to provide their patients,” said Bobby Jarrell, O.D., who is chair of the AOA State Government Relations Committee. “We congratulate them on their success.”
The act authorizes the following:
- Diagnostic drugs defined to include cycloplegics, mydriatics, anesthetics, and fluorescein.
- Topical legend drugs (excluding allergens, alpha adrenergic agonists, antiparasitics, antifungal agents, antimetabolites, antineoplastics, beta adrenergic blocking agent, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, collagen corneal shields, epinephrine preparations, miotics used for the treatment of glaucoma, temporary collagen implants, and succus cineraria maritime).
- Oral legend drugs defined to include antibiotics, antihistamines, antiviral agents, and non-narcotic analgesics.
- Removal of foreign bodies that have not perforated the Bowman’s membrane.
Specifically excluded from the scope of practice are:
- Treatment of glaucoma; surgery; use of injectable drugs; prescription of controlled substances; treatment of the lacrimal drainage system or lacrimal gland; X-ray; photocoagulation; ionizing radiation; or treatment of structures posterior to the iris, but treatment of iritis will be allowed.
In addition, the act mandates that candidates for initial licensure must now pass the three-part examination series administered by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry.