22 Aug 2018

Spotlight on our NHMRC Fellowship winners: Dr Joseph Doyle

Dr Joseph Doyle
Department of Infectious Diseases
by Anne Crawford

Dr Joseph Doyle. Career Development Fellowship to: improve the delivery of hepatitis C treatment and eliminate the disease burden from Australia.

In 2016 a new tablet that cures hepatitis C hit the Australian market. It is fully subsidised under the PBS scheme. Yet 1000 Australians still die of the disease each year.

“Most people have been diagnosed with hepatitis C but are not in care or regularly engaged with the health care system. They’re from marginalised communities, in communities of people injecting drugs or who have in the past,” Dr Doyle said.

Dr Doyle has been funded by a NHMRC fellowship to develop and test a program that aims to deliver treatments to cure all Australians with hepatitis C. Curing people of the disease not only stops them being infectious – a big factor affecting their quality of life and the way they feel – but in the long term turns off the progression of the liver disease associated with it and reduces the cancer that can occur as a consequence of hepatitis C.

“My fellowship’s really about implementation science,” he said. “We’re implementing all the breakthroughs that have happened in Hepatitis C in the past five years, tools that we already have, scaling them up so that they’re accessible to everyone. It’s not about developing new tools or new drugs – we actually have most of the things we need, we need to implement them and embed this in the health system so that they’re very sustainable.”

The study will have three stages to: to deliver testing through appropriate channels such as community centres, needle exchange programs and methadone clinics; look at ways to move programs outside hospitals and into the community as well, and; follow up people once they are cured to demonstrate the long-term benefits of cures. “So we can show we’re turning off cancer, improving the quality of life and show that people don’t have any downstream complications.”

The program has a target of a decade is to deliver the treatments needed to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health problem. “We’re on track but we need to do much more to make sure we get there,” he said.

Australia had 230,000 people living with Hepatitis C in 2016 – with 50,000 of them treated since then.

“The Fellowship is really encouraging and positive feedback on the work we’ve been doing for a few years,” Dr Doyle said. “I think by the end of this work we’ll have very solid evidence that Australia’s leading the world in starting to eliminate what was previously a chronic virus.”

The program would then serve as evidence and a model for other places worldwide, he said.

Dr Doyle is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Infectious Diseases and an infectious diseases specialist. He is interested in the epidemiology, prevention and management of HIV and viral hepatitis. He is a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine.

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