The Irish Haemophilia Society has called for 350 seriously-ill people with the Hepatitis C virus to be given early access to new treatments that could save their lives.

It said this group can not medically tolerate the current Interferon treatment, due to severe liver damage that increases their risk of death.

The society said of the 12,365 patients who need Hepatitis C treatment, 350 have been identified by specialist hepatologists to be in need of urgent treatment.

An expert group, chaired by Department of Health official Dr Deirdre Mulholland, is looking at the new treatment options.

IHS Chief Executive Brian O' Mahony said immediate action is needed by way of an early access programme.

The drugs cost around €45,000 and are given as a once-off treatment.

Mr O'Mahony said early access could save lives and around €10.5m through avoiding decompensated liver disease and preventing the need for liver transplants.

He also said one of the drugs would be made available free, prior to licensing in October.

More than 260 people with haemophilia were infected with the virus from contaminated blood products.

The IHS said 50 of its members have been cured of Hepatitis C through treatment.

So far, 38 have died from the virus.