Use and supply of drugs

Use and supply of drugs

C 2.1.1 Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians are reminded that Tropicamide and other pupil dilating drugs are prescription only medicines (POMs). As such the supply of these drugs is controlled by law and optometrists (and OMPs), are the only members of the practice team who legally are responsible for the instillation of these POMs. The use of pupil dilating eye drops should always, therefore, be done under the direction and supervision of an optometrist (or doctor/OMP).

C 2.2.1 Registered Dispensing Opticians may order a limited list of POMs [see below] including these drugs for use in the practice.

  • Amethocaine hydrochloride
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Cyclopentolate hydrochloride
  • Fusidic acid
  • Lignocaine hydrochloride
  • Oxybuprocaine hydrochloride
  • Proxymetacaine hydrochloride
  • Tropicamide

C 2.3.1 Contact Lens Opticians may now instil a limited range of anaesthetics [see below] in the course of appropriate contact lens fitting. The Association recommends that this should only be used for complex fittings where it is needed to achieve a satisfactory result.

  • Lignocaine hydrochloride
  • Oxybuprocaine hydrochloride
  • Proxymetacaine hydrochloride

CLOs with further qualifications in Extended Services can, under the supervision of an optometrist , use topical anaesthetics to aid in the provision of these services such as glaucoma repeat measurements, minor eye condition services and Covid-19 urgent eyecare services.

C2.3.2 Explicit and informed consent must be obtained and noted before administration of any topical preparations. Particular care should be taken in the case of pregnant or breastfeeding patients. Further information may be found here (from Dispensing Optics journal October 2019).


Registered dispensing opticians are able to supply chloramphenicol under the following circumstances.

C 2.4.1 In the case of acute bacterial conjunctivitis ONLY, the sale and supply of 0.5% Chloramphenicol drops [1% ointment] may now be instigated by all dispensing opticians. The restrictions of the pharmacy classification limit the supply to:

· a maximum pack size of 10ml [drops]/ 4gms [ointment]

· only in adults and children over 2 years of age

· for a maximum of 5 days.


Earlier in 2021 we were made aware that some manufacturers had updated their product information to include a possible contraindication which would affect children under the age of two- (NOTE – this falls outside of the permissions on supply by dispensing opticians as detailed above). This contraindication stated that chloramphenicol drops must not be given to children under two years old due to it containing the excipient boron which may cause infertility. This contraindication did not apply to the ointment which does not contain boron

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists along with other professional bodies requested that the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) review the advice and in July 2021 the MHRA published new guidance linked below:

It is important to note:

1. Dispensing opticians can only supply chloramphenicol to children over two years of age and only in the case of acute bacterial conjunctivitis.

2. Parents presenting for advice and guidance for children under two should be directed to their GP.

References: 1. 2.

C 2.4.2 See Dispensing Optics – Special Educational Supplement

C2.5.1 Practices should have Standard Operating Procedures to ensure that drugs are managed in accordance with the legislation.

All drugs should be stored in accordance with manufactures instructions and must be kept out of reach of patients and visitors at all times. Drugs should be stored within a locked cupboard (or lockable fridge if required).

Lot numbers and expiry dates must be recorded on patients records for all drugs and diagnostic stains used in practice.

Quality in Optometry (QIO) GOS Contract (England) Section B contains useful statements to help support in the management and storage of drugs in practice.

Clinical and hazardous waste should be disposed of in accordance with current legislation.

C2 .6.1 Optometrists are referred to paragraphs K1.25 & K1.26 and chapter A6 (Delegation) of the College’s Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Professional Conduct. If they are in any doubt about what to do in their particular circumstances they are advised to contact their professional and/or defence body for advice.  

C2 .6.2 For further information see


This page was last updated in July 2020 and will be reviewed in July 2022. Changes due to updates in legislation, advances in clinical knowledge, or extensions to scope of practice will be incorporated as they happen.