The top 15 highest-paid biopharma CEOs of 2019

CEOs for Merck, J&J, AbbVie, Gilead and more made tens of millions in total 2019 pay. But their compensation was dwarfed by the CEO at No. 1. (Pixabay)

Biotech and pharma companies are focused these days on delivering drugs and vaccines to fight the pandemic, but just a few months ago, they were recounting their 2019 accomplishments.

While the world has changed for everyone—and drugmakers expect some financial pain this year—many enjoyed a productive year last year, with sales increases, new drug launches, M&A deals and plenty of clinical data. Those companies, and some with less stellar résumés, rewarded their CEOs handsomely for that work.

FiercePharma's list of best-paid biopharma CEOs comprises midsize companies and some of the industry’s largest drugmakers. But a quick glance reveals U.S. companies dominate the list, with just AstraZeneca’s Pascal Soriot representing drugmakers beyond the states. (Mylan may be nominally based in the Netherlands, but the company's operational HQ and CEO Heather Bresch are ensconced in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.)

Another interesting feature of the rankings: CEOs at midsize biotechs—such as Alexion and Vertex—outearned the heads of some of the world’s largest drugmakers, such as GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Roche. Those latter companies didn’t make the top 15. 

Topping the entire industry, though, was United Therapeutics’ Martine Rothblatt, who scored four years' worth of stock options. And it's not her first extremely lucrative pay package, either.  

RELATED: The top 20 highest-paid biopharma CEOs of 2018 

Generally, a biopharma CEO's compensation derives from progress on several fronts, including R&D developments, as well as the usual revenue and stock price metrics. We run down that progress in the profiles you'll find linked below.

Please enjoy this year's roundup of biopharma’s best-paid CEOs. We’ll see how the list shakes out in 2020 as the industry—like all others—works to adapt to the pandemic.