Johnson & Johnson (J&J)’s director of global brand protection for its multibillion-dollar medical devices business has a track record to match its 136-year reputation. Roy Albiani is an award-winning leader with twenty years of experience protecting patients, brand reputation, and supply chain at J&J from illicit trade, including dangerous counterfeit, tampering, and illegal diversion.
More broadly, he also possesses decades of sales and marketing leadership experience from small start-ups—where he helped establish the global brand protection (GBP) function—at one of the most well-known and reputable healthcare companies in the world.
Albiani’s entrepreneurial drive and spirit have moved him six times across four states, and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The executive took a pause to speak with American Healthcare Leader about building out GBP programs, safeguarding patients, and the broader mission defining his career.
Could we delve into your pioneering the J&J brand protection function? There must be immense pride in building out this team.
Of course, I am very proud of what our GBP program at Johnson & Johnson has become today. But it certainly started humbly, and like many good things, by circumstance need, with many good people contributing along the journey.
I started our GBP function with our former J&J Diabetes Care franchise in 2003, when a marketing director for our market-leading diabetic test strip used to measure blood glucose for people with diabetes.
At the time, I was the only dedicated resource and initially had no budget. Additionally, there were virtually no brand protection professionals in the medical device industry. At best, it was considered part of the work of the security department, which depended on law enforcement that often did not prioritize it.
There were no standards on how to address illicit trade issues, and virtually no one for me to learn from in my industry. Accordingly, I learned a great deal from peers in California, primarily in the tech industry, along with emerging technology vendors and law firms adept at addressing illicit trade issues.
One of the catalysts for additional resources, however, was when we uncovered a large and serious counterfeiting issue impacting the health and safety of people with diabetes. Accordingly, we made additional investments in people and operational solutions, which led to a great deal of success over the years. We not only protected patients, but also drove significant value recovery back to the business.
Today, with the help of other pioneering leaders, J&J’s GBP program evolved from a single operating company to supporting our entire enterprise. Now, we serve as a thought leader in the space, having developed many solutions, practices, and standards to safeguard patients from illicit trade. Our broad, global, cross-functional team, led by a vice president, reports into the law department.
Could you talk about the proactive vs. reactive elements of your work, and how you see your role as safeguarding patient lives from bad behavior?
My primary role is to lead, develop, and execute strategies for our MedTech segment to disrupt illicit trade to safeguard patients and our business from illicit trade, including issues like counterfeit, tampering, and illegal diversion. Our GBP program comprises both a strong defense and proactive, preventative offense.
These elements include product security investigation and enforcement to disrupt global illicit supply chains; product protection technology to help identify suspect counterfeit; market monitoring and robust business insight data analytics to identify and act on concerns proactively; and external partnerships with law enforcement, regulatory agencies, industry, and academia.
As an example—in the case of recently counterfeited, dangerous medical devices—our counterfeit mitigation strategy had two goals: first, to safeguard patients quickly, and secondly, to destroy and dismantle the global illicit supply.
Our team executed a vigorous market intelligence campaign, allowing us to acquire hundreds of counterfeits and identify counterfeit suppliers.
In parallel with an investigation, our team executed a comprehensive market intelligence campaign, which allows us to acquire hundreds of counterfeits, while identifying counterfeit suppliers.
To mitigate the imminent danger to patients, we pursued a civil enforcement remedy through outside counsel. Court seizure orders, injunctions, and asset freezes allowed us to take the counterfeits, the counterfeiters’ money, and shut down the counterfeiting scheme immediately.
In addition to our enforcement actions to disrupt the counterfeit supply chain, we also deployed a proactive, end-to-end, anticounterfeiting program. This helps minimize future impact to patients and protect the goodwill of our brands, which included many of the solutions described earlier. These programs are becoming a standard approach for how we address products at high risk for counterfeiting, which could cause harm to patients.
Team leadership and a strong regional, cross functional team is paramount when addressing counterfeit. Diverse teams typically include representatives around the world from J&J’s GBP team, the law department, global security, quality, the business, and many important external partners, including outside counsel and intelligence agencies. Throughout our mission, all have been passionately dedicated to safeguard patients with urgency, while destroying and dismantling the global illicit supply chain across all borders.
At this point in your career, what continues to motivate you, and what does success mean?
As a pioneer in GBP, we continue to evolve as a business discipline, not only at J&J, but in industry, generally. It’s very satisfying to contribute to strategy and solutions that will continue to shape our future. I am excited about the many future possibilities in our space to help safeguard patients and protect the goodwill of our brands.
I also enjoy sharing my knowledge with new people who come into our space, and it’s stimulating when there’s a passionate spark that translates into results. I love developing my team and others, as it’s very fulfilling to know that many individuals I hired throughout the years have advanced successful careers in GBP and other functions.
At this stage of my career, I am optimistic that I have left a path and legacy for others to follow. Most of all, I hope I’ve inspired others to lead with integrity, humility, and caring for others, while seeking diverse and inclusive perspectives to maximize results.
In 2020, Roy Albiani was bestowed with the Brand Protection Hero Award by Michigan State University’s Center for Anti-Counterfeiting and Brand Protection, the most prestigious industry recognition. “When I watched Roy receive the award, I was with dozens of other brand protection professionals that, like me, had benefited from his patient guidance and willingness to share his expertise,” said Geoffrey Potter, who (as head of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Brand Protection Practice at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP), has worked with Roy for more than fifteen years.