As Trikafta launched, Vertex's Leiden scored $18.8M in final full year as CEO

CEO of Vertex
Vertex Pharmaceuticals' Jeffrey Leiden became executive chairman on April 1, handing the CEO reins to Reshma Kewalramani. (Vertex)

Vertex Pharmaceuticals reached a big milestone last year with its launch of triple combo cystic fibrosis drug Trikafta, widely pegged as a future blockbuster. Meanwhile, the company notched a CF sales increase, advanced drug candidates and inked key reimbursement deals. 

All of that helped former CEO Jeffrey Leiden win a $18.79 pay package during his final full year as the company's top exec. The total was just shy of his $18.8 million pay package in 2018. 

Leiden’s 2019 base salary held flat at $1.3 million, while his stock awards fell to $9.33 million and option awards grew to $4.57 million. His cash incentive pay came to $3.51 million, and Leiden’s “other pay” totaled $73,265.  

Companywide, Vertex grew CF sales 37% last year to $4.16 billion, the drugmaker said in its proxy filing. It's projecting an increase of 25% or more this year.  

RELATED: Vertex CEO Leiden touts gangbusters Trikafta launch in 'mic drop' earnings call 

Leiden's pay package was enough to rank him among some of the highest-paid execs at the world's largest drugmakers. Bristol Myers Squibb CEO Giovanni Caforio brought in $18.76 million in compensation last year, for instance, while Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla snared $17.92 million.

Aside from Vertex's financial performance, the company invested $1.6 billion in external innovation, the proxy says, and advanced its drug candidates. Trikafta won FDA approval in October. A combo of elexacaftor, ivacaftor, and tezacaftor, the new medicine is carrying big expectations.

Also since the start of last year, Vertex scored reimbursement deals in England, France, Australia and Spain for Trikafta's predecessor CF meds Orkambi and/or Symdeko/Symkevi.

RELATED: Vertex opens up $500M in sales with landmark CF deal in England 

As part of the negotiating process with England, though, the company faced a series of negative headlines, including news that it destroyed medicines that expired as negotiations dragged on. Vertex and English authorities finally reached their landmark reimbursement deal in October. 

Turning to 2020, Reshma Kewalramani has served as Vertex’s CEO since April 1. She earned a $6.8 million pay package last year as Vertex's chief medical officer. Leiden now serves as executive chairman.