The Big Fix: How the Pharmaceutical Industry Rips Off American Consumers. By Katharine Greider. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003. Pp. 189.

Magic Cancer Bullet: How a Tiny Orange Pill Is Rewriting Medical History. By Daniel Vasella with Robert Slater. New York: HarperBusiness, 2003. Pp. 258.

Two recent books provide radically different perspectives on the pharmaceutical industry. The Big Fix by Katharine Greider is squarely in the muckraking tradition of Jessica Mitford, while the Magic Cancer Bullet by Daniel Vasella with Robert Slater is a business insider's view on modern drug development. The Big Fix's subtitle - "How the Pharmaceutical Industry Rips Off American Consumers" - captures its theme. By contrast, Dr. Vasella develops the notion that modern drug development is incredibly complex and expensive, and drug companies take big risks that need to be rewarded with big profits. While opposite in viewpoint, the books share key characteristics. Both are short tomes targeting the lay public. Both put a sharp focus on the issues of fair marketing and pricing practices for prescription drugs. And, by ignoring the potential of physicians to serve as agents of change, both fail to provide concrete steps to alleviate the problem of prescription drug costs in America.