The HSE and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated have agreed to expand the current agreement to provide for a triple-combination drug therapy to treat cystic fibrosis. 

Cystic Fibrosis Ireland welcomed the announcement, saying that it could help treat the underlying cause of CF for around 80% of the CF population in Ireland.

The drug treatment is subject to approval from the European Medicines Agency.

"This is a most wonderful Christmas present for all those with cystic fibrosis in Ireland," said Philip Watt, CEO, Cystic Fibrosis Ireland.

"The drug therapy 'Trikafta' [as it is known in the US] is what many scientists and patients have been waiting for since the basic genetic cause of CF became understood in 1989," said Mr Watts.

Trikafta is a combination of three drugs that target the CFTR gene responsible for the disease, which affects more than 1,000 people in Ireland.

The gene results in the formation of thick mucus build-up in the lungs, digestive tract and other parts of the body.

That in turn results in respiratory and digestive problems, and exposes patients to complications, such as infections and diabetes.

Average life expectancy is in the 30s and 40s and was historically even lower before advances in drugs that alleviate symptoms.

The new therapy is hoping to target the most common mutation of the CFTR gene, the F508del mutation, which represents around 90% of cases.

"Because of the HSE’s announcement today, all patients in Ireland with CF who are age 12 years and over and who have at least one copy of the F508del gene mutation will get access to Trikafta as soon as it is approved by the European Medicines Agency," said Mr Watt.