Two big pharma execs share the same challenges, but compensation? They’re not even close

Big Pharma execs may share big concerns like the battle over drug pricing, big patent cliffs and the dilemma over pipeline productivity, but they don’t get paid the same.

A brief glimpse of 2 new SEC filings from AbbVie $ABBV and Sanofi $SNY underscore the chasm of wealth that can separate peers in this lofty realm. 

AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez bagged a package worth a total of $21.3 million for 2018, down slightly from $22.6 million from the year before. R&D chief Michael Severino took home compensation worth $8.6 million. And that’s more than Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt made.

Brandicourt, who took one of the hot seats alongside Gonzalez during the recent Senate hearings on drug prices, took home a compensation package of $8.1 million — down $2.7 million, a painful 33% drop — compared to his allotment for 2017. 

Typically, the US chiefs tend to make more — much, much more — than their European counterparts. CEO pay can be a much more controversial topic among investors and in society in Europe, where they rein in compensation. That led AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot to voice his own annoyance when he claimed last year that he and GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley were the two lowest paid pharma CEOs in the business. 

Soriot’s 2018 compensation package: $14.8 million. 

“You know, it is annoying to some extent,” he told a reporter. “But at the end of the day, it is what it is. I’m not going to complain, but me and Emma (Walmsley, chief executive of Glaxo Smith Kline) are the lowest-paid in Europe and the US.”

Brandicourt may have something to say about that the next time they get together.

Image: Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt (left) and AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez (right).

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