'Goodfellas' star Liotta's new line? A quit-smoking pitch for Pfizer’s Chantix

Ray Liotta
Actor Ray Liotta, seen here in a publicity photo for NBC’s Shades of Blue, joins Pfizer's Chantix real people campaign as its newest nonsmoker thanks to the drug. (NBC via Twitter)

Legendary tough guy actor Ray Liotta is now fronting for Pfizer’s Chantix.

He’s the first celebrity to appear in the long-running campaign, which features real smokers who kicked the habit. But in this crowd he’s like all the rest. He begins the TV ad speaking to the camera, using the same simple introduction as previous testimonials: “I’m Ray and I quit smoking with Chantix.”

The actor, best known for his role in the classic crime drama "Goodfellas," worked with that screen image in the ad. “In the movies, a lot of times I tend to play the tough guy, but I wasn’t tough enough to quit on my own,” he said. Liotta ended the TV commercial by telling the camera, “My favorite role so far? Being a non-smoker, no question about it.”

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The Chantix testimonial campaign called “Real People, Real Stories” has been airing since at least 2012 with TV ad spending totaling $447 million across 24 different commercials during those six years, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker iSpot.tv, which began tracking national TV advertising that year.

Liotta “wanted to share his story to help others,” Pfizer said in a statement to FiercePharma. The pharma said it frequently receives messages from Chantix users who want to tell their individual stories, adding that it is “thrilled to have Ray” on board with the campaign.

“We hope these ads will inspire smokers to consider making a quit attempt and talk with their healthcare provider,” Pfizer said.

Along with the TV ad, the Liotta Chantix campaign, which began in early June, also includes digital, social media and in-retail advertising.

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Chantix was approved by the FDA for use in 2006, but has had ups and downs since then, including a black-box warning label added in 2009 highlighting concerns about suicidal thoughts and psychiatric side effects suffered by some patients. After followup studies and a steady push by Pfizer, the FDA removed the warning in 2016. Pfizer spent $273 million to settle a majority of the 2,700 state and federal lawsuits filed over those side effects in 2013.

More recently, the pharma has been dinged by GoodRx for price increases on Chantix, which has more than doubled to a list price of $485 for a 30-day supply in the past five years. Pfizer reported $997 million in sales of Chantix in 2017, an increase of 18% over the previous year.