Anderson Remarks Make Some Docs Sick

10/23/2003 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Pamela Anderson, who jumped the waves on TV's "Baywatch," is now making waves in the medical community after her recent remarks about living with hepatitis C, a disease she was first diagnosed as having in 2001.

"I think I've got a good 10 years left in me, which is sad. Maybe 15, if I'm lucky," Anderson, 36, told Us Weekly magazine. "It's scary," she says, "but lately I've been feeling great. For some reason, my liver keeps getting healthier."

Some medical professionals, however, are voicing their dismay over Anderson's comments.

"This 10-year window she's given herself is her fantasy -- not anything I can think of clinically," says Massachusetts-based clinical practitioner Richard S. Ferri, who edits NumedX, a national medical journal that deals with hepatitis C.

He called Anderson's statements "inflammatory. There's no reason to believe that a person who is hepatitis-C positive would not be able to live a full and rich life with the treatments that are available today."

Teresa Hanbey, founder and executive director of the 11-year-old Hepatitis C Outreach Project in Portland, Ore., says that because of Anderson's quotes, "My phone lines are lit up and there are e-mails from desperate and scared patients who think they, too, are going to die soon."

Hanby goes on to fume that on "Larry King Live," Anderson "showed how ill-informed she was about her own disease when claimed she feared 'psoriasis' from her hepatitis, rather than the more accurate risk of cirrhosis. One would expect a spokesperson to understand both the disease and the consequences of misinformation to those who suffer from hepatitis C and those who are learning about it for the first time."

But Bob Madison, director of communications and marketing for the American Liver Foundation in New York, defended Anderson. "She's a great friend of the ALF and served as the grand marshal of our motorcycle rally to raise awareness," he says. "She is a tireless advocate and has been helpful overall to the cause of hepatitis C -- the first celebrity ever to come out and say she has it."

As for her diagnosis, Madison suggests, "The progress of hepatitis C is different for every patient."

Anderson (who has said she contracted the disease from a dirty tattoo needle) reportedly is not taking Interferon, a drug that hepatitis patients often inject. Instead, her homeopathic doctor, Wendy Hewland, tells Us that she "made a single remedy specifically for Pam."

As for the actress's future, Dr. H. Aaron Aronow of the UCLA National Neurological AIDS Bank (which also does hepatitis C research) says, "I'm sympathetic to anyone who has a chronic debilitating illness, including Pamela Anderson."

But, he adds, "I certainly would never tell a patient she had 'X' amount of time left."
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