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Lord of the rants

Dance yourself fit? NHS style thinning is the least of 2007's challenges, Roy Predicts

How's the New Year going for you? Too early to say? Probably.

Have you made any resolutions? Lose weight, give up smoking, join a gym, go on a diet? Reduce your credit card debt, spend more time with the family, quit drinking and take up ballroom dancing?

I'm probably right about one of them!

Let's face it: half of all adults are overweight; credit card debt goes through the roof during the festivities; long holidays over Christmas and New Year mean we spend more time with the other half and it usually ends in a row (hence more people decide to get divorced in December than in any other month!); supermarket figures on the sale of booze tell me that we drink too much; and the BBC programme, Strictly Come Dancing has sent would-be Freds and Gingers to dance schools in their heal-leading droves.

Indeed, ballroom dancing is so popular that, according to the font of dependable knowledge, the Daily Mail, the NHS is to offer ballroom dancing classes to the circumference-ly challenged. Last year's 'Strictly' winner, cricketer Darren Gough, himself no stranger to mince pies, lost a shed load of weight. However, regular sex burns as many calories as a Samba and a night of passion is at least as good as a Pasa Doble. I am available for clinical trials!

Nice tips
Apparently, the tradition of making New Year resolutions and sticking to them throughout the coming year dates back to the early Babylonians. You might be thinking about losing weight or stopping smoking, but the most popular Babylonian era resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment! Well it's obvious, isn't it?

They hadn't invented smoking and they were all too busy busting their backsides growing crops to worry about putting on any extra festive weight.

Apparently, only 60 per cent of people keep their resolutions into the second month of the year. After that, the drop off is so dramatic you don't want to know. It's too depressing.

Let's face it, New Year resolutions are a mug's game, but if you must (and this is based on extensive research, or a good Google around the topic anyway) here are my tips to help you keep them.

If you made a resolution last year and it went down the toilet by Valentine's Day, ask yourself, why?

If there is a good reason, don't try the same resolution this year until you've fixed the problem. If there wasn't a good reason, you obviously weren't serious in the first place and didn't mean it - so stop kidding yourself that you did and enjoy another cream bun.

Next, figure out what your goals really are and don't have a resolution just because everyone else does. If you're happy to smell like an ashtray, puff away. No one likes smokers anyway.

A common strand of advice seems to be not to try setting world records for the most resolutions. Just the one will do. It will be a miracle if you keep one. It would be a phenomenon beyond the understanding of mankind if you kept two.

Also, remember that you are supposed to plan for the whole year, so recognise that a resolution is like a dog - for life and not for Christmas. However, fat people, like dogs, also need to be taken for a walk every day.

Finally, resolutions have a price - be prepared to pay for them. If you get thin, your clothes will make you look like you've fallen into a laundry basket. Now a new wardrobe costs a packet, while a bigger belt is just a few quid.

I predict a riot
Of course, there are also the New Year predictions. They say, in 2007 Nostradamus predicts the coming of the anti-Christ and a war in Iran. I think he might be right.

I predict the UK economy will muddle through, house prices in the south-east will continue to rise, something horrible will happen, something amazing will occur and the G-string will become available in other letters.

Pharma? No different to the rest of us. Weight, debt, old habits and more time with the family. It should collectively resolve to lose some weight, quit spending so much and stop drinking in the Last Chance Saloon.

Health spending will slow, pipelines are not looking good and there is no reason to believe this will be a good year. Companies need to talk to their family of customers about what they really want. Although, I predict - with the greatest confidence - they will have no more idea this coming year, than they did last year, about who their customer really is!

Pharma will probably muddle through like it always does; except for one company in particular, and it pains me to say this as one notable firm has been something of a favourite of mine. I've admired it. It has been forward thinking and responded to change. However, in my opinion, its people have, collectively, lost the plot.

Good old Pfizer looks, to me, like it is in for the mother of all tough years.

It recently had to pull what looked like a half decent product, in the late stages of clinical trials, because, it seems, it did more harm than good.

This has cost the company a great hunk of money and sent its share price the way of a lead balloon.

Pfizer has also announced that it intends to take the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to judicial review because it didn't like a particular appraisal process.

Is this not tantamount to Sainsbury's deciding to sue Mrs Smith at 52 Acacia Avenue because she doesn't want to buy their latest soap powder?

Suing customers into submission is not a good idea.

A tough 2008
However, Pfizer's plight may be a portent for things to come for the rest of the industry. As far as I can see, no big-pharma-bruiser has got much in the way of pipeline and what most do have is either me-too mutton dressed as lamb, or so excruciatingly expensive that NICE will probably say 'thanks, but no thanks'.

The pharmaceutical industry will need some resolutions; getting slim and getting rid of a few bad habits is only part of the solution.

The real issue is how firms will use this year to prepare for 2008. Nostradamas predicts a terrorist attack on the US in 2008. I predict that pharma has 2007 to prepare for its toughest year ever.

The author
Roy Lilley is a healthcare author and broadcaster

15th January 2007

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