Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos Is Stepping Down, Company Look to the Future

Danielle Letenyei - Author
By

May 3 2022, Published 3:00 p.m. ET

Biogen Inc. has struggled with its Alzheimer's drug Aduhelm, but Medicare’s recent refusal to cover the drug may have been too much for CEO Michel Vounatsos. On May 3, the company announced that Vounatsos is stepping down from the CEO role. According to Wallmine, his net worth is estimated to be over $32 million.

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Michel Vounatsos

Biogen CEO

Net worth: $32 Million

Michel Vounatsos has been the CEO of biotechnology company Biogen since 2017. On May 3, the company announced during its earnings call that Vounatsos was stepping down from the role. The company, which manufactures the Alzheimer's drug Aduhelm, has faced many struggles with the drug over the years.

Michel Vounatsos’s salary is over $1.5 million.

Vounatsos has been the top executive at Biogen since 2017. He originally joined the company in 2016 as its executive vice president and chief commercial officer until he was promoted to CEO. According to Salary.com, in 2020, Vounatsos received almost $18.4 million in total compensation from the company. His salary was about $1.5 million. He also received over $2.5 million in bonuses and $13.8 million in Biogen stock.

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“It has been an honor to lead this outstanding Company during such a challenging period and to work closely with so many dedicated and talented colleagues. I am very proud of Biogen’s unparalleled capabilities in neuroscience, a complex field with tremendous unmet medical need, and of the novel medicines and benefits we have brought to patients,” Vounatsos said in a statement.

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Biogen has faced challenges with its Alzheimer's drug.

The management change is just part of a restructuring plan. Biogen is looking for a future beyond its trouble with the Aduhelm drug. The once-promising drug, which Biogen expected to bring in significant revenues, has experienced some significant stumbles. First, there were missteps in two key clinical trials for the drug, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Advisory committee members resigned over the FDA’s approval of Aduhelm.

When Aduhelm was up for FDA approval, an external advisory committee rejected its approval. Although the FDA usually follows the recommendations of its advisory committees, the agency approved the drug. Angered by the FDA’s approval, several committee members resigned.

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In his resignation from the committee, Harvard Medical School professor Aaron Kesselheim said the FDA’s approval of Aduhelm was “probably the worst drug approval decision in recent U.S. history,” reported The Wall Street Journal.

Once on the market, doctors were hesitant to prescribe the drug and several large insurance companies refused to pay for it due to concerns about its effectiveness and side effects, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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Medicare said it would only cover the drug in clinical trials.

In April, Medicare dealt the latest blow to the drug and will only cover the drug's cost for patients enrolled in clinical trials.

“We are disappointed by the recent Medicare coverage decision for ADUHELM,” said Vounatsos in Biogen’s earnings call on May 3.

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Biogen is switching its focus to its other Alzheimer’s drug.

Biogen is pivoting its focus to its other Alzheimer’s drug, lecanemab, and its zuranolone drug for depression. It will eliminate its Aduhelm sales team and plans to cut overall spending by $1 billion annually.

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Vounatsos will stay on as CEO and director on the board until the company finds his replacement.

“We appreciate Michel’s significant contributions to Biogen,” said Biogen Board Chairman Stelios Papadopoulos. “He has transformed the company into a global leader in neuroscience. He always puts patients first, driven by a steadfast commitment to innovation and scientific advances that can make a difference in the lives of people confronting devastating diseases.”

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