A "game-changer" cancer drug has been recommended for cover under the State drugs scheme.

The Health Service Executive Drug Group has recommended that Pembrolizumab - known as Pembro - be covered under the drug scheme for the treatment of melanoma and the positive recommendation will now go to senior management in the HSE.

A recommendation will also be made to Minister for Health Simon Harris shortly.

Around 130 patients would benefit from Pembro, which is expected to cost about €70,000 per patient per year, based on a price submission by the manufacturer, MSD.

Leading consultant oncologist Professor John Crown has described Pembro, and a second drug Niovolumab, as "game changers" in the field of cancer treatment.

The HSE Drugs Group did not make any decision on Nivolumab - also known as Nivo - which is used for the treatment of melanoma and lung cancer.

Nivo is expected to be considered at a later stage, as its use in other types of cancers has to be examined.

Bristol-Myers Squibb which makes Nivo told RTÉ News that it has submitted a pricing proposal to the HSE but that the details were confidential.

Earlier, the company said that it will continue its compassionate access programme for patients with advanced lung cancer for 30 days. 

It said this was to allow the HSE further time to make a decision on covering the drug under the State drug scheme. 

Nivo is currently being provided to around 200 patients on compassionate grounds since May 2015.

The drug costs around €134,000 a year per patient.

Mr Harris welcomed the decision by Bristol-Myers Squibb to show compassion throughout the approval for Nivo.

He said: "A number of drugs, including the one referred to, are currently being considered by the HSE under the national medicines pricing and reimbursement assessment process. I have asked the HSE to conclude their deliberations as a matter of urgency."

CF drug found not to be cost effective

Separately, a high-tech drug for Cystic Fibrosis is not cost effective at the €158,000 price per patient per year being sought by the drug manufacturer, according to a new assessment of the drug Orkambi by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics.

It has found that the drug would cost around €400,000 over five years, at the price being sought by Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

As a result, it has advised that the HSE should not cover the drug under State schemes.

Orkambi has been proven to dramatically reduce exacerbations and hospitalisations in people with Cystic Fibrosis and would potentially benefit around 500 patients here, who are 12 years and older and have a certain genetic mutation.

The NCPE says the price would have be be lower than €30,000 a year, per patient, to be cost-effective.

Philip Watt, Chief Executive of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, said CF patients in Ireland were dismayed by today's ruling from the NCPE.

However he said that the ruling opens the door to further price negotiations with the drug company.