Doctor-shopping: Why many say Arizona makes it easy

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PHOENIX - 3 On Your Side didn't get far when we attempted to speak with someone at Priority Care Clinic in July.

After several attempts to contact them, we showed up at their south Phoenix business, but were immediately told to leave before police were called.

At the time, we were looking into a payment dispute from a 3TV viewer, but while doing so learned the clinic's main physician, Doctor Lynn Sweet, was in already trouble with the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners.

Since our report first aired, the clinic has closed and Doctor Sweet's license has been suspended, a move board director, Elaine Letarte says is rare.

“In the past fiscal year, the board has done it twice,” she said.

According to documents obtained by 3 On Your Side, two of Doctor Sweet's patients have died due to drug overdose.

But, he's not the only physician we've reported on that's been questioned about patient deaths.

In May, the Drug Enforcement Administration shut down Valley pain management clinics run by Doctor Angelo Chirban, accusing him of operating a prescription mill with a neighboring pharmacy.

The search warrant states Doctor Chirban's prescribing practices may have lead to the deaths of at least 10 patients.

“It’s a rampant problem,” Doctor Michelle Carlotti said.

Doctor Carlotti, a Valley surgeon, says doctor-shopping is out of control in Arizona.

The problem, she says, is that Arizona doesn't have a way to track patients’ behavior.

“It's as simple as going from one doctor. If that doctor won't abide they can go to another doctor next door, and because there's no federal and or universal link, you would never know,” she said.

Pharmacies in Arizona are required to report every prescription filled for a controlled substance.

Valley pharmacist Larry Yee says that system helps, but Elaine Letarte tells us it isn't always 100% accurate.

She attributes the spike in prescription drug abuse, in part, to an overall increase in the number of doctors willing to treat pain.

“Unfortunately we're probably also seeing more of it because there's more drug-seeking behavior in the general population,” Letarte said.

As for Doctor Sweet, the board alleges he prescribed or dispensed controlled substances without adequate patient records.

Pending an investigation, the doors at his Phoenix office remain closed.

3 On Your Side, once again, attempted to talk to him and his staff about these allegations.

So far, our requests for an interview have been denied.