Secretary of State’s Office ‘strongly disagrees’ with rejection of rule giving naturopaths right to prescribe more drugs

Christopher Winters, director of the Office of Professional Regulation in the Secretary of State's Office. Photo by Viola Gad/VTDigger

Christopher Winters, director of the Office of Professional Regulation in the Secretary of State’s Office. Photo by Viola Gad/VTDigger

Secretary of State Jim Condos “strongly disagrees” with a legislative decision that rejected a proposed rule that would have given naturopaths the ability to prescribe a wider range of drugs.

The Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) rejected the rule in a meeting Sept. 19 on the grounds that it does not comply with legislation on professional regulation.

In a letter (attached below) in response to the ruling, Condos said he “strongly disagrees that the rule is contrary to legislative intent.”

Christopher Winters, director of the Office of Professional Regulation, said his office “did everything the LCAR asked us to do,” and that the rule is sound.

When the OPC presented the first version of the new rule to LCAR this month, the Vermont Medical Society (VMS) strongly disagreed that naturopaths should have similar rights to prescribe drugs as medical doctors have.

Jim Condos

Jim Condos

One of Vermont Medical Society’s concerned how the phrase “scope of practice” should be interpreted. Legislation passed in Act 116 in 2012, states that naturopaths should have the right to prescribe drugs within their “scope of practice.” But as naturopaths treat the entire body, with diseases varying from depression to cancer, the medical society is worried that some of the medication they would have the right to prescribe is beyond their formal training.

OPR was sent back to negotiate with VMS to come up with a new proposal, and together they decided to establish a committee that would work out the details, said Colin Benjamin, an attorney with OPR.

But LCAR rejected the second proposal (attached below) Sept. 19, saying OPR failed to consult clinical pharmacists, and failed to provide an opportunity for University of Vermont College of Medicine to speak on the issue. In addition, OPR did not make specific findings on whether naturopathic physicians receive sufficient academic training in pharmacology, according to a letter from the LCAR.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen has been a proponent of the new regulations. He told VTDigger this month that naturopaths have been licensed in Vermont for 15 years and that they provide the health care service that many Vermonters choose.

“I think there won’t be a problem,” Chen said. “Every prescription a doctor writes gets reviewed by a pharmacist. I’m in support of the regulation and I think they (the Office of Professional Regulation) are carefully considering this to ensure safety.”

In the letter from Condos, whose office oversees the Office of Professional Regulations, he said OPR has spent an disproportionate amount of time addressing arguments from the VMS and “defending” naturopaths.

“OPR is not representing the naturopathic physicians in this process,” Condos wrote. “It is charged with the duty to protect the public by regulating them, including those who commit unprofessional conduct.”

Condos will challenge the LCAR objection in person in front of the committee Thursday.

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  • This state administration isn’t “defending” naturopaths, NDs. It is advocating for them. The question is why. As far as I can tell, they don’t have the popular support that warrants politicians promoting their special interests.

    According to testimony NDs gave before a legislative committee in 2012. there were about 241 of them licensed in VT and 41 practicing here, virtually all of whom were looking for more patients.

    They do not learn, appreciate or practice evidence-based medicine and lack the skills and education required to safely and effectively use both natural and prescription drugs.

  • Chris Doyle

    If anyone is interested in seeing what science based medicine thinks of naturopaths here it is:
    They make a very good point about how you cannot look at the number of hours students study a subject (such as pharmacy) without considering the content.

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