Sponge Contraceptive Returning to Market
Sponge Contraceptive Returning to Market (Reuters)
A contraceptive sponge for women is returning to the U.S. market for the first time in a decade, the manufacturer said on Friday. The over-the-counter Today Sponge will start reappearing on store shelves this summer, maker Allendale Pharmaceuticals said. The company won the needed government clearance of its production facilities, Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Susan Cruzan confirmed. The earlier producer, American Home Products, stopped making the sponge in late 1994 when it encountered manufacturing problems and decided it was too costly to upgrade its plant. American Home Products is now Wyeth .
The sponge was made famous by the television comedy “Seinfeld,” when the character Elaine hoarded the devices once they were no longer made. She then used the birth control method only when she deemed a man “spongeworthy.” That episode, and repeated re-runs, raised awareness of the product. Allendale, which bought rights to the Today Sponge in 1998, received daily inquiries and kept an e-mail list of about 9,000 women interested in the sponge’s return, said Allendale President and Chief Executive Gene Detroyer.
The sponge is a round, disposable device soaked with spermicide that is inserted into the vagina to block a woman’s cervix. One sponge can be used for 24 hours through repeated acts of sexual intercourse. The sponge does not contain hormones, as birth control pills do. Three sponges will cost between $7.49 and $8.99, Detroyer said.
Studies of more than 1,800 women found the sponge was between 89 percent and 91 percent effective at preventing pregnancy when used as directed. The effectiveness rate is similar to that of the male condom, Allendale said.
More than 250 million sponges were sold between 1983 and 1994, when the Today Sponge was previously available. Allendale plans to make between 10 million and 15 million sponges during the next year and probably double production in the second year, Detroyer said.
The Seinfeld reference was the first thing that occured to me when I saw the headline; it’s amusing that it was the major focus of the Reuters report. Presumably, a lot more men will be deemed “spongeworthy” once the product is readily available again.