• Lou Correa’s glaucoma legislation leads to lobby fight Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Who did the state hire to decide whether it should be easier for optometrists to be allowed to treat glaucoma patients in California?  An optometrist.

    And that’s not going over well with ophthalmologists, who typically receive twice as much training as optometrists.

    Brian Joseph of the Orange County Register has details in a blog post on the newspaper’s web site.  The controversy comes in the wake of a bill authored by Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) that was signed in September and takes effect in January.

    That bill created a six-member committee to determine what clinical training would be required of optometrists to qualify them to treat glaucoma.  And the bill requires three of the committee members to be optometrists (who go to optometry school, give eye exams and prescribe eyeglasses) and three members to be ophthalmologists (who go to medical school and are trained in surgery and medical treatment of eye conditions).  The vote on two proposals turned out, predictably, to be a 3-3 tie.

    So the state hired a consultant to formulate the policy, and it chose optometrist Tony Carnevali, a past president of the California Optometric Association.  He recommended optometrists receive glaucoma certification after completing a lecture course and interacting with ten patients.

    As a result, the California Academy of Eye Physicians & Surgeons and the California Medical Association are asking the state to suspend the law and to investigate the cases of eight veterans who were blinded while under glaucoma treatment from optometrists at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Palo Alto.

    Under current state law, optometrists can be certified to treat glaucoma under more stringent requirements than Carnevali is recommending.  Neither of the optometrists involved in the Palo Alto cases had glaucoma certification.  Nor does Carnevali.

    Carnevali told Joseph he did not have a conflict of interest in the matter.  A spokesman for the state Department of Consumer Affairs asserted “no conflict of interest exists.”

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