U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, met with residents, patients and health care professionals Wednesday in Dubuque to discuss efforts to bring down the prices of pharmaceutical drugs nationwide.

Nine people shared stories about the substantial impacts the rising costs of pharmaceuticals have had on their lives.

Abby King attended Finkenauer’s roundtable Wednesday with her parents, Mickey and Daniel King. Abby, a 16-year-old student at Senior High School, lives with diabetes.

With the price of insulin nearly doubling in the last few years, she is as concerned as her parents.

“She worries about if as an adult she will be able to afford her medicines and raise a family,” said Mickey King. “A 16-year-old shouldn’t be worrying about that. But she’s not on our insurance forever. I want to keep her on for as long as I can, but 10 years are going to go by fast.”

Laura Wright, of Decorah, Iowa, shared her story of living with an immune system disease that targets her joints. She now works as a pastor, but previously had to live without quality insurance.

“To me it seems like a universal ideal in Iowa that people can be independent and work in small towns and be fine,” she said. “I am now a pastor. My church says, ‘We will give you that insurance because we believe in it.’ But I don’t have a benevolence fund for the people in my church. The idea that even charity can do it is ridiculous in small towns.”

Finkenauer said one big problem is that regulations impacting pharmaceutical companies lack teeth. That, she hopes, will be solved with the Lower Drug Costs Now Act — a bipartisan bill promoted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that aims to mitigate rising drug costs.

“What’s been missing is any enforcement,” Finkenauer said. “This allows generic companies to sue to get those (options) in faster like they’re supposed to be. It’s unreal how long we’ve let these bigger drug companies get away with it.”

A major component of the legislation is enabling Medicare to negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry.

Three Republican candidates are running for the party’s nomination to challenge Finkenauer in the November 2020 election. Those candidates proposed opening up market and increasing transparency.

Thomas Hansen, of Winneshiek County, and Darren White, of Jackson County, both said restructuring current regulations to allow for more free market control would go a long way. Both, however, said more transparency is needed in that marketplace.

“There needs to be more oversight and transparency across the board,” said White.

Campaign staff for Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, did not make the candidate available for a phone interview.

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