CEO and President, Gilead Sciences
Total Compensation: $15.45 million
Professional Profile: John Martin, 61, is a University of Chicago chemist with a Golden State University MBA specializing in marketing. He started his professional career at Syntex in 1978, and then moved to Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) in 1984. At BMS, he served as director of antiviral chemistry. He jumped ship in 1990 to be Gilead's ($GILD) vice president for R&D. By 1996, he had become CEO and president. Since 2008, he's been chairman and CEO. Earlier this year, he made FiercePharma's list of the 25 most influential people in biopharma.
Company Profile: John Martin could have coasted right through the first 11 months of 2013 and still won a standing ovation from investors--not to mention doctors and hepatitis C patients. In the 12th month, however, Gilead attained FDA approval of Sovaldi, previously known as sofosbuvir.
Sovaldi was one of the most eagerly anticipated drugs in recent memory, with hepatitis C patients waiting to start treatment once it hit the market. And with the help of those patients flocking to pharmacies for their prescriptions, Sovaldi not only sprinted to blockbuster status in a matter of weeks, but also took the official crown as the fastest drug launch in history. Estimated sales for 2014? Upward of $10 billion, or more, depending on the analyst.
But Gilead didn't coast through 2013. Its new four-in-one HIV pill rolled out in more countries around the world, building sales to almost $540 million for its first full year on the market. Other products, notably HIV drug Complera, also made big gains. Overall, Gilead's 2013 product sales were up 15% to $10.8 billion. And profits took a half-billion-dollar leap to top $3 billion.
It's not all a bed of roses for Martin, though. Gilead's penchant for slapping high prices on its drugs has attracted protest before, but with Sovaldi--which runs $84,000 per treatment course in the U.S.--it's not just angry patients with picket signs. Doctors Without Borders, a perennial critic of the company's AIDS drug pricing, went after Sovaldi even before it won approval, and the humanitarian organization was quickly joined by public health advocates around the world.
It's the payer protest, however, that really stands out this time. While Sovaldi is churning out cash, private insurers and government programs are trying to figure out how they can possibly foot the bill. Millions of Americans have hep C. Treating them all, one pundit said, would cost more than the U.S. spends on every other drug combined. Gilead has stood by its pricing in the U.S., though it has cut several deals for ultracheap prices in the developing world. And with its combo hep C pill--which comprises Sovaldi and another antiviral, ledipasvir--on its way to approval this year, it may have an even pricier follow-up on its hands. That combination drug would cut out the other usual hep C cocktail ingredients, putting the treatment regimen into one pill. -- Tracy Staton (email | Twitter)
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Editor's note: We corrected a reference to the generic name of Sovaldi in this article. The correct name is sofosbuvir, not sorafenib.