ALBANY, N.Y.—New York State this week approved oral medication prescribing authority for optometrists with the signing of a new law. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the legislation, S. 1519/A. 1921, on Monday, Oct. 25, which amends the state’s optometric scope of practice act by authorizing doctors to prescribe a formulary of oral therapeutic pharmaceutical agents for the treatment of eye diseases. Although diagnostic and therapeutic topical drugs have been authorized for optometry since the mid-1980s and 1990s, respectively, New York remained the only state in the nation prohibiting oral prescribing authority after Massachusetts enhanced its scope of practice earlier this year, according to the American Optometric Association, which posted the news on its website.

Viola Kanevsky, OD, president of the New York State Optometric Association, told VMAIL, “In 1995, two years after my graduation from SUNY Optometry, my class was the first that gained topical prescribing privileges in New York. I remember the great sigh of relief I breathed when I could provide my patients with the level of care I had been trained to give in school.
"I then took another deep breath and gathered the strength and patience I would need to continue the battle in bringing New York optometry up to the practice standards of the rest of the nation.”
Dr. Kanevsky practices in New York City at Acuity NYC. She noted that over this period of time “25 years have passed, 25 years of attending orals CE, 25 years of co-managing with pediatricians and general physicians who sought my advice in prescribing oral medications for ocular conditions for their patients, 25 years of trekking to Albany, [and] 25 years of signing letters and making phone calls to legislators.”
“To say that this day was highly anticipated would be the understatement of a quarter century. I am more excited about practicing today than I was on the day I received my license,” she added.
According to AOA, the new law specifically permits doctors’ use of oral therapeutic pharmaceutical agents, including antibiotics, antivirals and antiglaucoma agents. Doctors must be certified to prescribe oral medications for the treatment of glaucoma and ocular hypertension, must complete an oral therapeutic drug certification course, and must complete an examination unless having graduated from an accredited college of optometry and passed board examinations after the law takes effect, Jan. 1, 2023.
Kanevsky also noted that her “heartfelt congratulations and thanks” go out to the NYSOA, SUNY Optometry, Dr. Dawn Chivers (who leads NYSOA’s legislative committee), “and all the doctors who fought so hard for our patients.”
“Having worked on this legislation for 15 years, I am thrilled that New York state optometrists will be able to treat our patients the way they deserve to be treated, consistent with the standard of care set across the rest of the country,” Dr. Chivers told AOA. “This could not have happened without the efforts of the incredible SUNY College of Optometry and the grassroots efforts of hundreds of optometrists across the state.”
Kanevsky added, “We’re so appreciative of the leadership and dedication of Assembly member Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) in the passage of this bill. Optometrists throughout the nation have been safely prescribing these medications to patients for decades while in New York, patients would come into our offices seeking the care we are well trained to provide and instead were being referred on for multiple unnecessary and expensive appointments.
"Authorizing optometrists to prescribe oral medications alleviates stress on our health care system, reduces costs and, most crucially, increases access to timely eyecare services for all New Yorkers,” Kanevsky said.
According to AOA, New York state rounds out “the list of states permitting optometry’s oral medication prescribing for ocular diseases, capping a year of historic scope wins for optometry’s advocates.”