Biopharma Companies with the Biggest CEO-Employee Pay Gaps

Pictured: A graphic showing figures on opposing si

Pictured: A graphic showing figures on opposing si

See inside for the top 20 biopharma companies with the most significant gaps in pay between their chief executives and median employees.

Pictured: A graphic showing figures on opposing sides / © Nicole Bean

As inflation rates have risen, so has CEO pay, and the average employee’s salary has fallen further behind.

According to a study published May 3 by research firm Equilar, median pay in 2022 for CEOs at large U.S. firms clocked in at a record $22.3 million—7.7% higher than the year before. The study analyzed the 100 top-paid CEOs at U.S. public companies with revenue of at least $1 billion that reported compensation before April of this year. That median income clocked in at 288 times the amount of the salary of the median employee.

The biopharma industry is no exception to this large wage gap. According to an analysis by BioSpace, the median pay of the top 20 highest-paid life sciences CEOs in 2022 was approximately $29.2 million—an average of more than 200 times what the companies reported for their median employee pay.

In all cases, much of these earnings came from stock options tied to the company’s performance. This is the first year that companies are required to provide information about performance-tied compensation paid to their executive officers, including unvested stocks and awards granted in previous years, thanks to new SEC disclosure rules designed to make reporting of total pay more accurate.

The Biggest Pay Gaps in Biopharma

1. Sarepta Therapeutics | 494:1

  • CEO: Douglas Ingram, $124,938,694
  • Median employee pay: $249,890
  • Headcount: ~1,160

Sarepta CEO Douglas Ingram rang in at the highest total salary of all pharma executives in 2022 by far, at $124,938,694. Thus, even though the median employee took home the second highest pay among the companies on BioSpace‘s list, with $249,890, Sarepta takes the number one spot in CEO:median employee pay ratio.

Ingram’s pay likely came as a surprise to many, as his total compensation for the year prior totaled just over $1.5 million. Only $1,623,876 of the 2022 total can be attributed to his base salary and yearly bonus, while the rest is due to stock awards and options agreements, which were higher than usual due to a change the board of directors made to the vesting schedule on Ingram’s stock options in April 2022.

To that end, Sarepta’s net revenue for the year was $843.8 million in total, a 38% increase from the year before. The company reported its stock performance was volatile over the course of the year, from a low of $62.69 per share to a high of $132.13 per share. The high performance was likely due to the positive clinical trial data related to SRP-900, which the FDA is set to vote on in late June. If approved, SRP-900 would be the first FDA-authorized gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

2. Pfizer | 437:1

  • CEO: Albert Bourla, $33,017,453
  • Median employee pay: $75,536
  • Headcount: ~83,000

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla brought in a total of $33,017,453 in 2022, making him the fifth highest-paid pharma executive of the year. Pfizer ranks second on this list due to a comparatively low median employee salary of $75,536.

Despite the waning COVID-19 pandemic, Pfizer’s profits haven’t suffered. In fact, the company announced record profits in 2022, raking in about $100 billion in total revenue.

3. Bausch + Lomb | 416:1

  • CEO: Joe Papa, $19,781,761
  • Median employee pay: $47,525
  • Headcount: ~12,900

Joe Papa, Bausch + Lomb’s CEO until his departure in early 2023, took home a grand total of $19,781,761 in 2022, which stands in stark contrast to its median employee pay of $47,525, as well as to its total 2022 revenue of $3.768 billion.

This February, Bausch + Lomb decided to reignite an old flame, announcing that its former CEO Brent Saunders, who served from 2010 to 2013, will once again take the reins. Saunders has a reputation for his deal-making even outside the industry—in 2015, Forbes called him the “undisputed deal king of Wall Street.”

4. Amneal Pharmaceuticals | 409:1

  • CEO: Chintu Patel, $5,062,732
  • Median employee pay: $12,380
  • Headcount: ~7,600

Amneal’s high ranking in terms of pay ratio is due less to its CEO’s salary and more to its much lower-than-average employee pay, despite reporting a net revenue of $2.21 billion for 2022. At just over $12,000, the pharma’s median employee pay is the lowest of any other company on the list by far. The India-based company also stands out in terms of leadership—Chintu Patel is one of two CEOs.

Patel brought in $5,062,732 total in 2022, which was slightly more than his partner, Chirag Patel. The ratio was calculated based on the higher paid partner.

5. Thermo Fisher Scientific | 363:1

  • CEO: Marc Casper, $28,208,909
  • Median employee pay: $77,806
  • Headcount: ~129,660

Similarly, Thermo Fisher Scientific ranks fifth on this list due to its lower-than-average median employee pay of $77,806. By contrast, the company’s chief executive Marc Casper brought in $28,208,909 in total pay in 2022, placing him in the top 10 of highest paid biopharma CEOs.

The company, which reported its revenue as $44.92 billion for last year, also stated that if Casper’s total compensation did not include the “non-recurring amount incurred to align the retirement vesting provisions in Mr. Casper’s equity award agreements with those granted to all other executives,” the estimated ratio would have been about 263:1, which it stated is “more indicative” of the ongoing ratio.

6. IQVIA Holdings | 293:1

  • CEO: Ari Bousbib, $30,135,029
  • Median employee pay: $102,805
  • Headcount: ~86,000

With a total compensation package of $30,135,029, Ari Bousbib is the ninth highest-paid CEO on our list, but his company, IQVIA Holdings, ranks sixth due to its median employee pay of $102,805. Bousbib became chairman and CEO of IQVIA in October 2016, after the merger of Quintiles and IMS Health.

IQVIA’s yearly revenues have been growing steadily over the past few years. For 2022, the company reported a record annual revenue of $14.4 billion, up 3.9% from 2021, according to its 2023 proxy report.

7. McKesson | 294:1

  • CEO: Brian Tyler, $20,221,325
  • Median employee pay: $68,844
  • Headcount: ~49,000

Brian Tyler brought in a total of $20,221,325 in 2022 as CEO of McKesson, where he has worked for over 25 years. Median employee pay, by contrast, was $68,844. The pharma reported total revenue of $276.7 billion in 2022, an increase of 5% from the year before. The Texas-based company is one of the largest pharmas in the state, but it is only one location of many that span 14 countries.

Despite its influence in the industry, McKesson saw its share of controversy in 2022. In February, the firm, alongside Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health, agreed to pay $26 billion to resolve allegations of its role in the U.S. opioid crisis.

8. Royalty Pharma | 277:1

  • CEO: Pablo Legorreta, $93,478,402
  • Median employee pay: $337,085
  • Headcount: 75

Royalty Pharma ranked highest on the list for median employee pay with $337,085, but its CEO and founder Pablo Legorreta is second only to Sarepta’s Ingram with take-home earnings of $93,478,402, placing his firm eighth on our list for CEO:median employee pay ratio. The pharma reported a total full-year revenue of $2.2 billion.

Legorreta founded Royalty Pharma in 1996 to buy royalty rights for future drug sales. All eyes have been on the company since 2020, when it became the second-largest pharmaceutical listing ever recorded after it sold $2.18 billion in stock following its IPO. This IPO was a long time coming; according to the The New York Times, Royalty owned partial rights to seven of the 30 top-selling drugs in the U.S. as of 2017.

9. Charles River Laboratories | 265:1

  • CEO: James Foster, $13,447,872
  • Median employee pay: $50,826
  • Headcount: ~20,800

Charles River Laboratories CEO James Foster didn’t even crack the top 20 highest-paid biopharma CEOs of 2022, but the firm ranks ninth on our list due to its low median salary of $50,826.

Charles River Laboratories reported an overall strong 2022, reporting a full-year revenue of $3.98 billion, a 12.3% increase from 2021. But at the start of 2023, controversy struck. In February, Reuters reported the company had received a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice over an investigation into the supply of non-human primates from Cambodia. Charles River supplies the primates as part of the animal research services they offer to the drug developers they partner with. The investigation is ongoing.

10. Seagen | 254:1

  • CEO: David Epstein, $57,460,546
  • Median employee pay: $226,423
  • Headcount: ~3,200

David Epstein began his role as CEO of Seagen in November 2022 as successor to Clay Siegall, who resigned in May 2022 following domestic violence allegations. Epstein was paid a total of $57,460,546 in 2022, meaning he earned over $1 million dollars every day from the day he was appointed to Dec. 31, and dramatically more than the $226,423 that the median employee earned over the entire year. The pharma reported a total revenue of $2.0 billion for 2022.

Epstein’s stint at Seagen will likely be short and sweet. According to his employment agreement, the board likely expects him to leave within 18 months of his appointment.

11. AmerisourceBergen Corp. | 245:1

  • CEO: Steven Collis, $16,747,382
  • Median employee pay: $68,343
  • Headcount: ~43,800

AmerisourceBergen CEO Steven Collis collected a total of $16,747,382 in 2022. The median employee pay, by contrast, was $68,343.

Company revenue increased 11.5% in 2022 compared to the year before, adding up to $238.6 billion in total, according to the proxy report. According to a press release, the increases in both revenue and expenses were largely due to the company’s June 2021 acquisition of Alliance Healthcare.

12. Bausch Health | 243:1

  • CEO: Thomas Appio, $13,171,461
  • Median employee pay: $54,304
  • Headcount: ~19,900

Bausch Health CEO Thomas Appio brought in a total of $13,171,461 in 2022, compared with a median employee pay of $54,304. In total, the company made a reported revenue of $8.1 billion, a 4% decrease compared to 2021.

In a press release, Appio called 2022 a “transformative year” for Bausch Health, in part due to the completion of the IPO of subsidiary Bausch + Lomb in May. Since then, he said, the company has made “significant progress” in reducing its debt principal net of unrestricted cash by $3.2 billion.

13. AbbVie | 224:1

  • CEO: Richard Gonzalez, $26,287,185
  • Median employee pay: $117,189
  • Headcount: ~50,000

AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez collected a total payout of $26,287,185 in 2022, 224 times the median employee pay of $117,189. Now, both Gonzalez and AbbVie face a challenging time, as the company’s blockbuster drug, Humira, has reached its patent cliff, and biosimilars began to hit the market in early 2023. Full-year net revenues for the company were just over $58 billion in 2022, and Humira sales accounted for $21 billion of that total.

This year could very well be Gonzalez’s last full year at the helm. In an April conference call, Gonzalez discussed his plans to step down from his role as CEO after guiding AbbVie through the transition for Humira biosimilars. Though he did not provide a timeline, he said he does not expect to depart until after 2023.

14. Teva Pharmaceuticals | 208:1

  • CEO: Kåre Schultz, $15,529,138
  • Median employee pay: $74,779
  • Headcount: ~36,800

Kåre Schultz collected a total of $15,529,138 during his last year as CEO of Teva Pharmaceuticals, where the median employee earned $74,779. Then on Jan. 1, 2023, Schultz handed the reigns to Richard Francis. According to The Wall Street Journal, Schultz announced in November 2022 that he always planned to retire at 62 years old, and he wants to focus on his first grandchild, whom his daughter was expecting at the time.

Despite the CEO’s large payout, 2022 was a tumultuous year for the company, as it finalized a settlement in September related to its alleged role in the U.S. opioid epidemic. As a result of the settlement, Teva agreed to pay out $4.35 billion beginning in 2023. The company brought in total full-year revenue of $14.9 billion in 2022.

15. Illumina | 205:1

  • CEO: Francis deSouza, $26,752,197
  • Median employee pay: $130,653
  • Headcount: ~11,500

Illumina CEO Francis deSouza brought in a total of $26,752,197 in 2022, while the median employee took home $130,653. In total, the company brought in $4.58 billion in revenue for the full year. These profits came amidst a constant back-and-forth and string of disagreements between deSouza and activist investor Carl Icahn over the company’s $7.1 billion acquisition of Grail. This tension came to a head this past Sunday, when deSouza resigned from his roles as CEO and member of the board, effective immediately.

DeSouza will remain an adviser through July 31. Charles Dadswell, the company’s general counsel, will take on an interim CEO role as the board searches for the company’s next leader.

16. Sanofi | 200.5:1

  • CEO: Paul Hudson, €9,960,000 ($10,718,747)
  • Median employee pay: ~€85,300 (~$91,816)
  • Headcount: ~91,573,000

Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson garnered a total compensation package of €9,960,000 ($10,718,747) last year. At number 16 on our list, it’s still more than 200 times the median employee pay of ~€85,300 (~$91,816).

Sanofi recorded a global revenue of about 43 billion euros, or about $45.2 billion, a growth of about 7% from 2021, according to the company’s proxy report. Much of this revenue was due to Sanofi’s blockbuster drug, Dupixent, which brought in about 8.3 billion euros, up about 44% from 2021. Sanofi has plans to grow these sales in 2023. On May 21, the company released Phase III trial results that showed Dupixent could become the first biologic approved to treat COPD.

17. Catalent | 196:1

  • CEO: John Chiminski, $12,407,517
  • Median employee pay: $63,242
  • Headcount: ~19,000

Catalent CEO John Chiminksi brought in a total of $12,407,517 in 2022, despite only serving as CEO for six months. That’s compared to an annual median employee pay of $63,242. Catalent’s total net revenue for 2022 was $4.83 billion, an increase of 21% from 2021.

After 13 years as CEO of Catalent, Chiminksi stepped down from his role in June 2022 to begin his transitional year as executive chair of Catalent’s board of directors. On June 30, 2023, Chiminksi will officially retire and be replaced by the new CEO, J. Martin (“Marty”) Carroll, who was unanimously selected by the board of directors.

18. Zai Lab | 189:1

  • CEO: Samantha (Ying) Du, $20,212,141
  • Median employee pay: $106,671
  • Headcount: ~2,000

Zai Lab CEO Samantha (Ying) Du brought in a total of $20,212,141 in 2022, compared to the $106,671 earned by the median employee.

Zai Lab recorded a total revenue of $215 million for 2022, a dramatic increase of 49% year-over-year. According to a company press release Zai Lab published outlining its full-year results, much of this growth was due to the success of its therapy, Zejula, which grew 55.2% in sales year-over-year and is “the leader in PARP inhibitors sales for ovarian cancer in China.”

19. Merck | 188:1

  • CEO: Robert Davis, $18,650,093
  • Median employee pay: $98,943
  • Headcount: ~69,500

Last year was a lucrative one for both Merck and its CEO Robert Davis. Full-year 2022 worldwide revenue increased 22% from 2021 to $59.3 billion, and Davis brought in a total of $18,650,093, according to the company’s proxy report. That’s compared to the median employee pay of just under $100,000.

The company’s growth was driven by sales of blockbuster drugs Keytruda and Gardasil, which grew 22% to $20.9 billion and $6.9 billion, respectively. And the revenue increases are not likely to slow anytime soon. On June 3, Merck presented highly anticipated data from its Phase III KEYNOTE-671 trial that showed Keytruda plus chemotherapy outperformed AstraZeneca’s Imfinzi in non-small cell lung cancer.

20. Biogen | 182:1

  • CEO: Christopher Viehbacher, $30,488,593
  • Median employee pay: $186,983
  • Headcount: ~8,700

At 182 times the median employee pay of $186,983, Biogen CEO Christopher Viehbacher received a total of $30,488,593 in 2022 in exchange for his leadership during a successful year for Biogen. According to a press release announcing its full-year results, Biogen reported a total of $2,544 million in revenue for the year and focused its efforts on advancing two candidates: Leqembi in Alzheimer’s disease and zuranolone in depression.

The former is almost to the finish line. On Friday, an FDA advisory committee unanimously voted for the agency to grant Leqembi full approval in Alzheimer’s. The latter has also made progress since the end of 2022. In February, the FDA accepted the New Drug Application for zuranolone and granted it priority review in both major depressive disorder and postpartum depression.


BioSpace combed through hundreds of SEC filings and proxy statements to determine which life sciences companies had the largest ratios between the total compensation paid to their CEOs and their median employees. The U.S. government required publicly held companies to provide this information via the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Others, like privately held companies and small startups, released the information voluntarily.

It should be noted that most if not all of these companies warned against direct comparisons of their ratios to other companies, as calculations vary. The SEC stated that “a company will be permitted to select its methodology for identifying its median employee and that employee’s compensation,” as long as the methodology is deemed “reasonable.”