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Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who are the top-earning CEOs of them all?

A new report from the Associated Press and the research firm Equilar has some answers, and once again, many of the highest earners among execs running large companies are pharma and health care CEOs.


Consider Dr. Leonard S. Schleifer, the head of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, based in Tarrytown, N.Y. His total compensation in 2015? More than $47 million. If he were working at New York state’s minimum wage — $9 an hour — it would have taken him well over 5 million hours to earn that much. That’s about 600 years of work without stopping to eat or sleep.

(Regeneron, by the way, just announced it’ll spend $100 million over the next decade to sponsor the nation’s largest high school science competition.)

Next on the list is Dr. Jeffrey M. Leiden, of Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Boston, at $28 million. That actually represents a pretty hefty pay cut for Leiden. He earned more than $36 million in 2014, which raised a few eyebrows given that the company had turned a profit just once in the previous quarter-century.


Larry J. Merlo, of CVS Health, clocks in at number 3 among health-care execs. His total compensation last year was just shy of $23 million — a 6 percent drop from the year before.

Here are the top 20 earners in the health care field, from the AP and Equilar, which analyzed CEO pay at  hundreds of companies on the S&P 500:

  1. Leonard S. Schleifer, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, $47,462,526
  2. Jeffrey M. Leiden, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, $28,099,826
  3. Larry J. Merlo, CVS Health, $22,855,374
  4. Robert J. Hugin, Celgene, $22,472,912
  5. Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson, $21,128,866
  6. Michael F. Neidorff, Centene, $20,755,103
  7. Alan B. Miller, Universal Health Services, $20,427,309
  8. Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck & Co., $19,898,438
  9. Miles D. White, Abbott Laboratories, $19,410,704
  10. John C. Martin, Gilead Sciences, $18,755,952
  11. Richard A. Gonzalez, AbbVie, $18,534,310
  12. Heather Bresch, Mylan, $18,162,852
  13. David M. Cordani, Cigna, $17,307,672
  14. Mark T. Bertolini, Aetna, $17,260,806
  15. George A. Scangos, Biogen, $16,874,386
  16. Robert L. Parkinson, Baxter International, $16,648,750
  17. John C. Lechleiter, Eli Lilly & Co, $16,562,500
  18. Marc N. Casper, Thermo Fisher Scientific, $16,307,079
  19. Robert A. Bradway, Amgen, $16,097,714
  20. George Paz, Express Scripts Holding, $14,835,587

Total CEO compensation includes salary, bonus, stock and stock option awards, and other perks.

  • Hmmm. Stephen Helmsley, CEO United Heath Care is conspicuously absent from this list. His yearly salaries have been as high as$66- 102 million a year.

    Helmsley supported ACA believing the mandated coverage clause would increase his profits. Problem was, Millenials (and others) quickly realized paying the penalty for not having coverage was cheaper than paying a years’ worth of premiums.

    Mr. Helmsley has opted out of many ACA exchanges, citing “medical costs are unsustainable”. Helmsley fails to state his overly inflated salaries “are unsustainable”. Patients with chronic conditions (kidney failure, Crohn’s Disease), cancer diagnoses/treatment, or pre-existing conditions were left scrambling for alternative insurance coverage. Very caring of Mr. Helmsley, no?

    Helmsley has a wonderful arrangement with AARP. For using AARP brand, Helmsley pays “royalties” to AARP which means both AARP and UHC avoid higher taxation. That’s why AARP sends you their threatening envelopes (John Smith, you didn’t send letter to your congressman OR John Smith, we have sent you two letters. Fill out the enclosed form. Return within two weeks).

    It’s also why AARP begins surveillance of your buying habits/patterns ten or more years before your 55th birthday. You thought SS Administration gave them your info, right? Wrong. AARP, with help of your lovely congressmen, enacted laws that allow AARP to surveille you with every swipe of your credit and debit cards.

    Helmsley is no longer CEO of UHC as of one month ago. Let’s keep an eye on his successor. Let’s say YES to Medicare4All and NO to the Health Insurance titans.

  • Why does almost everyone refer to these guys as “healthcare” CEOs ? what do they do that actually can be translated as providing healthcare?They exploit people’s needs and give them the least amount of medical help they can.

  • Avarice & greed will be the end of the American dream. How many cancer patients had to die to give out these salaries? It’s harder for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. A needle in Jesus’ time was a small gate for sheep. Blood is on their hands. Funny how they always quote costs of research. Doesn’t Europe & Canada research. My wife is Italian and they are ranked #1 in healthcare. Who knows why? All I know is America is ranked with 3rd world countries in healthcare. Go figure.

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