Stricter rules for the country's most commonly prescribed painkiller were rolled out on Thursday by the FDA, the last step in a policy change that has been coming down the pipeline for years, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

Hydrocodone will now be in a more serious and restrictive category. Doctors will be barred from calling in prescriptions by telephone, and patients will not be able to get refills on the same prescription, but will have to return to a physician for a new one. It will also have be to kept in special vaults in pharmacies. The Drug Enforcement Administration said it will take 45 days for the new rules to take effect.

The drug is present in drugs like Vicodin, and the stricter regulations are some of the most far-reaching efforts to stop the epidemic of prescription drug abuse. More than 20,000 Americans die each year due to prescription drug abuse.

Hank Peck, who owns a drug store in Knoxville, Tenn., said Tennessee has seen the toll the prescription drug abuse takes on a community. 

"It's a pretty big issue, especially here in East Tennessee," Peck told WBIR. "I think we probably see more abuse that occurs in the state than there are a lot of places, so it is important."

He added: "It will change some things on our end in terms of how we keep the records and that sort of thing, so it does tighten things up a little bit, and it does change the fact that you cannot put a refill on that."

Currently, and until the new rules take effect, doctors can prescribe a six-month supply of painkillers with up to five refills under Schedule III. The new restrictions that take effect in mid-October will be limited to a three-month supply and no refills, according to WBIR.