by: Eric Philips Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The most commonly prescribed, abused and misused painkiller in the nation will soon be more difficult to get.
In 2013, nearly 130 million prescriptions for hydrocodone products were written in the United States -- far more than anywhere else in the world.
Eyewitness News anchor Eric Philips talked to physicians about what the new rules mean for millions of patients who rely on drug for severe pain.
Jesse Pike owns Pike Pharmacy, in Charlotte.
He has mixed feelings about the change in the law that will tighten prescription rules on hydrocodone.
“There's going to be a great concern because a need isn't going to be met that should be,” Pike said.
In a little more than a month, doctors will no longer be able to call in prescriptions for Vicodin, Lortab or other medications containing hydrocodone.
There will also be no refills -- patients will have to see their doctor to get a new prescription each time they need a new supply.
It's meant to stave off the spike in the abuse, illegal sale and overdose rate involving hydrocodone.
More than 20,000 Americans die every year because of prescription drug abuse, according to federal statistics.
But the new rules will be more inconvenient for those who legally use and legitimately need the drug, costing them more in doctor’s visits.
Plus, patients may not be aware of the new laws, which take effect in 45 days, until they try to refill their prescription.
Law enforcement officials said the rules could spark more crime, at least in the short term.
Pike said he doesn't want to see any customers suffer unnecessarily and plans to do everything he can to get the word out about the change.