A new project in Logan, focused on the micro-elimination of hepatitis C (HCV), has been awarded $60,000 funding as part of the 2021 Gilead Sciences Australia Fellowship Research Grants Program.

Currently, Brisbane South Primary Health Network has the fifth highest prevalence of HCV in Australia, but the third lowest uptake of treatment.

That’s about to change thanks to the C-YA! Project – a community elimination project funded by the Gilead Fellowship Research Grants Program and delivered by healthcare providers Pharmaceutical Rehabilitation Services (PRS).

The project seeks to increase HCV treatment uptake amongst people who inject drugs (PWID) through the 40 community pharmacies registered to provide Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) under the Queensland Opioid Treatment Program (QOTP).

The project aims to establish working relationships with these pharmacies to provide education about HCV and the importance of treatment to enable staff to start a conversation and link PWID to the necessary care.

Since February 2020, PRS has been successfully running the C-YA! Project which started by providing this treatment to people returning to society after a period of incarceration. This new grant means the C-YA! project can expand its operation beyond this high-risk population into the wider community.

PRS Waiting Area

Andrew Pfeffer, Director of Pharmaceutical Research Services, and project lead says the funding made possible by the Fellowship Research Grants Program can bring Australia one step closer to the WHO target to eliminate HCV by 2030.

Brisbane South Primary Health Network is a ‘hotspot’ for HCV having the fifth highest prevalence of HCV in Australia. Despite this, Brisbane South PHN has the third lowest uptake of HCV treatment in Australia.1

 “While efforts continue to increase the number of people treated from HCV infection, strategies that target people who inject drugs are also required to prevent new infections,” said Mr Pfeffer.

“One of Australia’s key HCV treatment successes has been improving access to treatment by moving treatment from specialist physicians to General Practitioners and nurse practitioners.

“We intend to take treatment to the marginalised HCV patient population by providing education support to a network of 40 local pharmacies pharmacists and their assistants and arming them with HCV disease awareness materials and telehealth options,” he said.

“We believe this approach will increase the number of people treated for HCV and prevent new HCV infections.”

Dr Paul Slade, Senior Director Medical Affairs Gilead Sciences ANZ, said: “The Australian research and clinical community has been at the forefront of informing and shaping best practice in patient care. However, there is also increasing competition for limited funding, which has been particularly true in the COVID-19 environment.

PRS Front Door

“Gilead is proud to provide opportunities for ongoing local scientific investigation and research to support patient outcomes.

“At Gilead we are driven by a desire to help patients in need through ground-breaking research and innovation.

“We are proud to be able to support Andrew Pfeffer and his team again as they raise awareness and take HCV treatment to high risk populations,” said Dr Slade.

Last year a Gilead Fellowship Grant enabled Andrew Pfeffer’s Pharmaceutical Research Services to establish a regular mobile outreach Clinic at Queensland Corrective Services (QCS, also known as Parole and Probation) offices.

Coined the “C-Ya!Project”, this test and treat model sought to take HCV curative treatment to a high-risk population. Despite the effects of COVID-19, lock-down and social distancing measures, the C-Ya! Project continued (albeit in an evolved form) and has been successful in testing and treating numerous patients and creating greater disease awareness.

The full list of the 2021 Gilead Fellowship Research Grants Program recipients:

• Mr Andrew Pfeffer a Clinical Consultant Pharmacist and a Director of Pharmaceutical Research Services in Logan, Queensland, to engage with local pharmacies in Logan City to increase hepatitis C treatment uptake amongst people who inject drugs as part of a micro-elimination strategy.

• Professor Kumar Visvanathan Infectious Diseases Physician, Academic Lead of Medicine at the University of Melbourne campus and Co-Director of the Immunology Research Centre at St. Vincent’s Hospital for research to investigate the long term general immunological responses in patients with confirmed COVID-19. 

• Dr Benjamin Bavinton at the Kirby Institute to evaluate the innovations and rapid adaptations to HIV testing, monitoring and care during COVID-19 to inform future service delivery models.

• Dr Adrian Minson, Aggressive Lymphoma Fellow at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre/ Royal Melbourne Hospital for research into the kinetics of CAR T-cell therapies, a novel immunotherapeutic that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. The project aims to uncover whether cancer-destroying function of CAR T-cells can be turned back on in patients where their function has failed, or new treatment is given.

• Professor Orla Morrissey, Infectious Diseases, at the Monash University Central Clinical School for research into the increasing resistance of antifungal agents among patients with chronic lung disease or post-lung transplant so future diagnostic molecular tests can enable early and correct anti-fungal treatment, improving outcomes for patients.

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