Vertex CEO Kewalramani nabs more than $15M in 2021 pay, rivaling some male Big Pharma peers

In her first full year at the top of cystic fibrosis juggernaut Vertex Pharmaceuticals, CEO Reshma Kewalramani has collected a pay package that rivals compensation at some Big Pharma companies.

Kewalramani’s 2021 salary clocked in at around $1.22 million, while the CEO collected more than $3 million in cash incentive pay, a new proxy filing shows. Stock awards made the biggest contribution to Kewalramani’s haul at nearly $11 million, more than double the amount she took home in that category in 2020. Meanwhile, she scored another $35,764 in “other compensation.”

All told, Kewalramani collected around $15.19 million in total pay last year, a 50% increase over the $9.11 million she made in 2020. That year, Kewalramani’s total compensation was about half the final-year pay for Vertex’s former CEO—and current executive chairman—Jeffrey Leiden, who scored nearly $18.8 million in his last year at the helm. 

In its proxy, Vertex praised Kewalramani’s leadership in executing its corporate strategy, as well as growing and preparing the company to branch out into multiple new disease areas. The company also cited Kewalramani’s leadership in the “over-achievement” of its financial goals, which included “significantly increasing” cystic fibrosis sales.

Moreover, Kewalramani helped grow Vertex’s bread-and-butter CF business through pipeline growth, as well as “indication expansions throughout the world," the company said. Vertex also praised her general leadership abilities during the pandemic.

Vertex generated $7.57 billion in 2021 product revenues, and it expects to top those numbers with 2022 sales expected to land between $8.4 billion and $8.6 billion.

The company’s med Trikafta did the bulk of the heavy lifting, posting full-year 2021 sales of $5.69 billion. Despite the strong performance, Vertex sees growth opportunities ahead.

During a conference call with investors earlier this year, Vertex echoed estimates that there are more than 25,000 patients who could benefit from Trikafta who aren’t yet on therapy. The company splits those patients into three groups: those who’ve yet to start on Trikafta in countries where the drug was recently reimbursed, patients in territories where the drug hasn’t been reimbursed and younger patients, whom Vertex aims to address with future Trikafta label expansions.

While Kewalramani’s pay lagged her male peers in 2020, the CEO, who rose to the top of Vertex in April of that year, now boasts a pay package more closely aligned with the chief executives at other big biopharma outfits.

Her pay package comes in ahead of those earned by Roche’s and Novartis’ CEOs, Severin Schwan and Vas Narasimhan, who took home about $12.48 million and $12.18 million in 2021 pay, respectively.

Kewalramani also beat out Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson, whose pay dropped 3.7% to around $12.26 million last year.

Elswhere, Seagen’s Clay Siegall, AstraZeneca’s Pascal Soriot and Moderna’s Stephane Bancel have all collected pay packages worth between $18 million and $19 million.

Rounding out the top of the list so far are top execs from AbbVie, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson, who’ve all snagged 2021 compensation packages worth more than $20 million.