The Cancer Drugs Fund in England was a “huge waste of money” and may have caused patients to suffer unnecessarily from the side effects of the drugs, according to UK researchers. The fund ran from 2010 to 2016, costing £1.27bn, following an election promise made by the Conservatives to pay for cancer drugs the NHS was not funding. The researchers found only one in five of the treatments were of benefit. But the Tories said the fund gave patients “precious extra time”.  Nearly 100,000 patients received drugs under the scheme. It was run separately to the normal NHS process for assessing the effectiveness and affordability of new drugs, which is administered by a body called NICE. The fund was promised by the Conservatives during the 2010 election campaign amid concern patients were not always getting access to the latest drugs. Lead researcher Prof Richard Sullivan, from King’s College London, described it as “policy on the hoof” because of the way it was announced. “Populism doesn’t work when you are dealing with complex areas of policy like this. When it was launched it was not monitored properly. It was politically and intellectually lazy.” He said it was not only politicians, who were guilty, but leading doctors and cancer charities for not speaking out against the fund or scrutinising it more. And he said by the end the initiative had proved to be a “huge waste of money” and a “major policy error”, saying it was telling that in 2015 the committee that controlled the fund started delisting drugs and ended up striking off more than half the treatments from the list.

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