Two days ago I ended a 15 month professional affiliation (indirect) with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) — which is why, during those 15 months, I did not write as a journalist on health care issues (except one passing reference once in a column on something else), because of course that would have been a conflict of interest. But now that my professional affiliation is finished, I feel compelled to say this: Of all the anti-corporate scapegoating that the political left engages in, perhaps the most pernicious is the left’s continuing attempt to paint pharmaceutical companies as bad guys. The fact is that, every single year, PhRMA companies vastly improve tens of millions of American lives and flat-out save millions more. Our free market system, and the competitions therein, work well in the pharmaceutical industries to provide the resources for life-saving research while keeping downward pressure on prices that no government program could ever accomplish. And the people I worked with at PhRMA care deeply, in a very personal way, about keeping their industry strong not just because it provides them a paycheck but because of the good that the industry does. PhRMA’s senior vice president of communications, Ken Johnson, is clearly motivated largely by a sense of idealism about the industry’s life-saving mission — in part because his longtime boss, PhRMA president and CEO and former U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, had his own life saved from cancer by the medical advances that only a free-market pharmaceutical industry could possibly have developed. PhRMA and conservatives may not always agree, but 90% of the time they will be on the same side, and for all the best reasons. It is an industry worth defending.