13. Jeffrey Leiden, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
2018 pay: $18.80 million
2017 pay: $17.23 million
Vertex Pharmaceuticals chalked up some big wins in 2018: It launched its third cystic fibrosis drug, Symdeko, for one, and grew revenue by a hefty 40%. Altogether, it was an "extraordinary" year, the company figures—and enough to secure CEO Jeffrey Leiden a 9% pay boost.
Leiden pulled in $18.8 million, thanks to a hefty bump to his equity-based pay. The CEO’s salary held steady for 2018 at $1.3 million, and he took home slightly lower incentive pay at $3.44 million.
But his stock and option awards jumped by nearly $1.6 million to more than $12 million, Vertex disclosed in a proxy filing. And that made the difference, taking his total up to $18.8 million from $17.2 million in 2017.
Leiden's pay package ranks him 13th among biopharma's best-paid CEOs for 2018. He ranks behind Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Giovanni Caforio, who chalked up a $19.38 million pay package, and ahead of Amgen’s Robert Bradway, who snared $18.56 million.
What made Vertex's year so “extraordinary," as it said in its proxy filing? Its 40% revenue jump took the biotech’s top line above $3 billion, for one thing. And the company got its combination therapy Symdeko across the finish line.
But the Massachusetts-based company also made progress with its next generation of triple-combo cystic fibrosis drugs. The company is aiming to create a suite of drugs that can treat the "vast majority" of patients, the proxy said.
Looking ahead, the company expects to grow its cystic fibrosis revenues by 15% this year. And outside of its core strength in that disease, the company has ambitions in pain, sickle cell disease and other conditions.
Last year, 96% of Vertex shareholders supported the company’s pay packages. But while shareholders may approve of Vertex’s recent progress, the company has faced some bad press in England over its standoff with health officials on pricing. The failed reimbursement negotiations have led to intense pressure from patient advocates and public officials.
For its part, Vertex maintains its drugs are worth more than England has committed to pay. England’s offer "does not take into account the vast time and resources invested” to develop the drugs and could hamper the company's ability to find a cure for the disease, an executive has said.