Florida may soon become the latest state to authorize nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) to prescribe controlled substances.

Sponsored by Representatives Cary Pigman and Daphne Campbell, House Bill 423 now awaits Governor Rick Scott’s signature. If signed, the law would allow “physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances under current supervisory standard for PAs and protocols for ARNPs … and creates additional statutory parameters for their controlled substance prescribing,” according to a summary of the bill.

The text of HB 423 goes on to clarify that to retain these privileges, PAs and NPs must complete 3 hours of continuing education on a biennial basis, focused on the “safe and effective prescribing of controlled substances.” In addition, these privileges limit prescriptions for Schedule II substances to a 7-day supply, and may not include psychotropic medications for those younger than 18 years old.     

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Governor Scott’s signature would make Florida the 50th and final state to authorize NPs as controlled substance prescribers; only Kentucky is a holdout for PAs. The Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners and the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants estimate that 13,000 NPs and 6,765 PAs practice in Florida, and granting prescribing authority would provide medical access to an expanding population of patients in the state.

“This legislation will help expand the availability of quality medical care by allowing skilled practitioners with advanced medical training to better meet the needs of their patients,” said Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) in a press release. “There are many rural communities across our state where physicians are simply not available.… After completing years of education of clinical training, PAs and ARNPs have the skills needed to prescribe these medications to the patients they serve.”

“This legislation will help make medical care more readily available while maintaining the high standards of training required to prescribe these controlled substances,” Senator Gardiner concluded.

Lobbyists for both groups of clinicians have worked for 22 years to get the legislation passed. If signed into law, HB 423 would become effective on January 1, 2017.


  1. Access to Health Care Services, HB 423/SB676; 2016 Leg, 1st Sess.
  2. Legislation to expand availability of medical care passes senate health policy committee [news release]. Tallahassee, FL: The Florida Senate. Published January 11, 2016. Accessed April 14, 2016.