Posted on Wed, Mar. 05, 2003
Today Sponge back on market
CONTRACEPTIVE WILL BE SOLD THROUGH INTERNET
By Jessica Portner and Julie Sevrens Lyons
A squishy contraceptive -- once so popular it became the theme of a hilarious "Seinfeld" episode -- will return to the market again eight years after it was discontinued.
The news that the Today Sponge is back has prompted some women to clear room in their medicine cabinets for the doughnut-shaped device, while others wonder why it is being resurrected at all.
Though dozens of contraceptives are already on the market, some health professionals heralded the sponge's return because it offers women another option, especially those who cannot tolerate other forms of birth control.
Allendale Pharmaceuticals, which bought the rights to make the polyurethane contraceptive, said Tuesday that it would start selling it this month through two Canadian Web sites and at 4,000 stores across Canada.
``The people who have asked for it really liked it,'' said Dr. Robyn Tepper, the chief of medical services at Stanford's student health center. ``As long as it's safe, I think it's always great to have another method out there.''
The Today Sponge was discontinued in 1995 after its maker decided it didn't want to spend the money to fix health violations at its lone manufacturing plant. Government inspectors had found that the water used to make the sponges was contaminated with bacteria -- although no tainted sponges were ever found. The new manufacturer hopes to begin selling them in U.S. stores within a year.
The halt in production left in the lurch women who were allergic to hormones in the birth control pill or who found other methods less effective. The product was the most popular non-prescription women's contraceptive in 1995. From 1983 to 1995, about 250 million Today Sponges were sold.
Two other brands of foreign-made contraceptive sponges are also available over the Internet.
The Today Sponge, which the manufacturer says is effective for 24 hours, sells for $36 for a dozen.
The Today Sponge was welcomed by many women because, unlike cervical caps or diaphragms, it didn't require a doctor to fit it. It was sold over the counter. It was easy to use. It could be inserted just before intercourse. And it could be tolerated by women who couldn't use hormonal methods.
Since the announcement, about 8,000 subscribers to the Spongeworthy Watch, an e-mail newsletter from www.birthcontrol.com,
have ordered about 12,000 sponges, said Barbara Bell, co-owner of the Internet women's products seller.
``Women who really liked it really felt the loss of it,'' said Terese Brennan-Marquez, a 48-year-old Palo Alto resident who knew many women who tried the sponge before it was yanked from the market. ``They probably felt similar to how Elaine felt.''
In a 1995 ``Seinfeld'' episode, Elaine runs around New York seeking the sponge, her favorite birth control. She finally locates a case and stretches the supply by deciding whether a boyfriend is ``spongeworthy.''
But the product isn't without drawbacks.
With an efficacy rate of about 90 percent, it isn't as good at preventing pregnancy as the IUD and hormonal contraceptives. It does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. It has been associated with infections in some women and, in rare instances, caused a sometimes fatal condition called toxic shock syndrome.
Not all onetime users are racing to order the sponge.
``Hate,'' ``off-putting'' and ``really unappealing'' are some of the expressions that came to mind when Natasha Banta McDermott recalled using the sponge in the late 1980s.
She found the device awkward when she tried it a half-dozen times.
``It didn't feel like what was happening would protect you from getting pregnant,'' said McDermott, now 33, who said she might just try it again, out of curiosity. ``I might give it a whirl again, because all the other options stink. But I won't be lining up for it.''
Still, Dr. Dorothy Furgerson, medical director of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, which includes Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, said it's important to have another option ``because different methods work differently for different people and we want couples to use the method that's best for them.''
Mercury News wire services contributed to this report. Contact Jessica Portner at email@example.com
or (408) 920-2729
Mar 5, '03
You just reminded me of the "are you sponge worthy?" episode of Seinfeld. One of my favs that I had forgotten about. I hated the sponge, BTW. But I do love spongebob squarepants....
OMG I ramble like a psych pt!
Last edit by Furball on Mar 5, '03