Legislation Allows Hundreds of New Medical Providers to Prescribe Highly Addictive Opioids
JUNEAU, AK - Amid Alaska’s spiraling opioid epidemic, the Alaska Senate passed legislation today that puts patient safety at risk by allowing as many as 125 of optometrists—who are not medical doctors or trained surgeons—to prescribe highly addictive narcotics and perform surgery on the eyes of Alaska patients. " While we are in the midst of a national debate over our nations medical system, this bill is a bad idea,” said Griff Steiner, MD, a 4th generation Alaskan and ophthalmologist—a medical eye doctor and surgeon— who has been performing eye surgery in Anchorage for over 20 years. “While trying to limit the amount of dangerous opioids on the street, House Bill 103 shockingly, and needlessly will add more than 100 new prescribers of these dangerous substances,” Steiner added. “But perhaps more alarming provisions of this legislation is that it allows insufficiently-trained providers who are not even medical doctors to perform eye surgery,” said Scott Limstrom, president of the Alaska Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons.
In 2014, the Alaska State Legislature passed legislation to continue to allow optometrists to prescribe controlled substances containing Hydrocodone.
“The AMA is concerned that authorizing optometrists to prescribe Schedule II Controlled Substances may undo important gains Alaska has made in reducing the state’s opioid supply as one component of reversing opioid-related overdose and death,” said James L. Madara, MD, AMA Executive Vice President and CEO. “From 2013 to 2016, Alaska physicians’ increased efforts to be more judicious when making prescribing decisions has caused a 13.3 percent drop in opioid prescriptions. This concerted effort by the physician community has made Alaska one of the lowest per capita opioid analgesic prescribing rates in the nation. Unfortunately, opioid-related overdose and death are increasing in Alaska. Now is not the time to increase the category of prescribers of Schedule II Controlled Substances and potentially add more opioids available for diversion and misuse.”