The Cancer Drugs Fund, launched in England by the then-Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010 following an election promise, has come under severe criticism.

Describing the fund as a major policy error and waste of money, an analysis by King's College, London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says that it may have even caused patients to suffer unnecessarily from the side-effects of the drugs, and claims that only one in five of the treatments given was of benefit.

The report claims that less than half of the drugs provided by the fund had undergone adequate clinical trials before being used, with only 18% meeting internationally recognised criteria for being clinically beneficial. The drugs only provided an average extra 3.2 months of survival to those who benefited.

The study, which is published in the journal Annals of Oncology, also says evidence suggests the medicines were too toxic for some patients, often forcing them to abandon treatment.

Side-effects included hair loss, upset stomachs, swelling in joints and an increased risk of stroke, BBC reports.

The fund, which cost £1.27bn, and ran from 2010 to 2016, was as a "policy on the hoof" due to the way it was announced, says Professor Richard Sullivan, lead researcher from King's College, London.

The fund was run in parallel to the National Health Service process for assessing the effectiveness and affordability of new drugs, which is managed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

"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," says Sullivan.

Sullivan also criticised doctors and cancer charities for not speaking out against the fund or scrutinising it more closely, the BBC reports.

He said that in 2015 the committee that controlled the fund started to delist drugs and struck off more than half of the treatments on the list.

"It was easy to present this as a major win for the NHS by saying, 'Look at all these additional patients who are going to have access to drugs,' But it was not properly thought-out policy. People became politically and intellectually lazy, but the money kept flowing," Sullivan said.

He also said the fund was unfair to non-cancer NHS patients, whose treatments are regulated by NICE.

Fund was just a 'sticking plaster'

Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research told The Telegraph: "The old Cancer Drugs Fund was always just a sticking plaster and we welcomed its overhaul because it was too expensive, unsustainable and provided little certainty to patients and their doctors.

"But while we support the rigorous drug evaluation that NICE carries out, it's essential that the new system continues to offer fast access to the most innovative and exciting cancer drugs."

According to Cancer Research UK, around 356,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed in the UK every year. More than 160,000 deaths are caused by cancer annually.

A spokesman for the Conservatives said: "The Cancer Drugs Fund is a policy that has given more than 100,000 people access to the latest drugs, meaning the chance of precious extra time with their families."