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Majority of optoms now able to use scheduled medicines

Registration statistics released by the Optometry Board of Australia (OBA) show more than half of Australia’s optometrists are now endorsed to use schedule medicines.

The figures, taken from December 2016, indicate 2,615 optometrists holding general registrations – or 50.9% – are therapeutically endorsed.

According to the OBA report, younger optometrists are far more likely to be authorised to use scheduled medicines compared with their more experienced colleagues.

"Having more than half of Australian optometrists therapeutically endorsed was a significant milestone for the profession."
Luke Arundel, National Professional Services Manager at Optometry Australia

Nearly 96% of optometrists aged 29 years or younger have a therapeutic endorsement, but that rate drops to 55% in the 30–39 years age group.

This trend is reflected in the subsequent age groups, with the endorsement rate dropping steadily in each demographic before bottoming out at just over 15% for optometrists aged 60 years or older.

However, national professional services manager Luke Arundel said having more than half of Australian optometrists therapeutically endorsed was a significant milestone for the profession.

“It is remarkable to think that the ability to prescribe was only recently introduced, first in Victoria in 1996, through the hard work of some visionary pioneers and with assistance from Optometry Australia and state organisations,” he said.

“We passed another milestone in 2007 when intense lobbying of government by Optometry Australia resulted in legislation to include optometric prescriptions in the PBS system.

“As states in the USA already have oral therapeutics and many vote this month on introducing legislation allowing optometrists to perform injections or minor surgery, or use Laser X, it will be interesting to see where the scope of practice for the profession in Australia ends up over the next 10 to 15 years.”

The statistics also confirm the rise of female optometrists, who now comprise 52.3% of the profession, an increase from 51% in December 2015.

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