In 1995, financial constraints forced Whitehall-Robins Healthcare to stop manufacturing the Today Sponge, to the great dismay of the women who had depended on the contraceptive device. Now, the Associated Press has reported that Allendale Pharmaceuticals Inc. purchased rights to the sponge from its former manufacturer and hopes to being selling the product by this fall.
Women’s groups, family planning groups, and healthcare providers welcomed the news, arguing that U.S. women have too few contraceptive choices. The Alan Guttmacher Institute’s Susan Tew commented, “We’re pleased and excited that it’s coming back.”
Since Whitehall-Robins discontinued production of the Today Sponge in 1995, contraceptive sponges have not been sold in the U.S. Similar sponges are available to women in Canada, France, and several other countries.
Although not as widely-used as sterilization or oral contraceptives, the Today sponge was popular among many women because it was available over-the-counter, caused few side effects, and did not require a doctor’s visit before use. The doughnut-shaped sponge could be inserted into the vagina up to 24 hours before intercourse and could remain in use for up to 30 hours. Similarly-available spermicidal foams, suppositories, or jellies were less convenient in that they required repeated applications for each sexual encounter.
The sponge’s greatest disadvantage was its relatively high failure rate, which was about 10 percent in women who had never gone through labor and slightly higher among those who had.