War on drugs? Right now, there's a war about drugs being waged in the Legislature - as in which health care professionals should have the right to prescribe medications.
Politicians, of course, aren't doctors (with a handful of exceptions). And you would think there would be a better way to regulate the practice of medicine than to leave it to a bunch of elected officials whose only knowledge of the subject is what various special-interest groups tell them.
And to make matters even worse, the outcome of these debates over what is called the scope of practice - that is, who gets to do what in the health care professions - comes down to which special interest makes the most campaign contributions.
Last month, the Assembly passed a bill, which we have previously expressed misgivings about, to allow psychologists to prescribe medications to treat mental, behavioral and emotional disorders.
Psychologists are not medical doctors. Their opponents in this battle - psychiatrists - are medical doctors. They have received all the training any physician receives, and are the only mental-health professionals currently allowed to prescribe medications.
The bill (A2419) is a cautious one. Only psychologists who have a doctoral degree, a postdoctoral master's degree in clinical psychopharmacology and who pass a test would be allowed to prescribe these medications.
But considering that some of these medications are controlled dangerous substances, can affect a host of organ systems (which psychologists have no experience with) and already are being overprescribed, according to many experts, the bill seems like a bad idea, in our opinion.
A bill to give advanced-practice nurses more freedom to prescribe drugs is a tougher call. APNs, who are highly trained and are performing many tasks previously performed by physicians, can prescribe drugs now in consultation with a physician. The bill (S2354) would allow them to act independently.
This seems like a more sensible measure. It addresses a real issue - a shortage of primary care physicians (few buy the psychologists' argument about a shortage of psychiatrists). And it is a model bill being recommended by both the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the Institute of Medicine.
But really - there has to be a better way.
These aren't decisions that 120 partisan hacks in the Legislature should be making. The political snake oil they pitch day in and day out is bad enough. Real medical decisions shouldn't be part of the Legislature's scope of practice.