- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

ALLENDALE, N.J. (AP) The Today Sponge contraceptive is back on the market, eight years after it disappeared from U.S. drugstore shelves in an alarming turn famously depicted on a "Seinfeld" episode.
The return of the sponge is expected to lead to bulk buying among its fiercely loyal users.
Allendale Pharmaceuticals, a start-up business in New Jersey, bought rights to the Today Sponge from the drug company that discontinued it. Allendale began selling it this month through two Canadian Web sites.
More sponges, priced at the U.S. equivalent of about $2.90 each, will hit the shelves at 4,000 pharmacies, Wal-Marts and other stores across Canada, according to Allendale. The manufacturer is hoping for Food and Drug Administration approval to sell them in U.S. stores within a year.
"I think there's just thousands of people out there waiting for it," said Marisa Dawson, a nurse in Ocoee, Fla., who is awaiting a dozen sponges she paid for in advance in the spring.
About 250 million polyurethane Today Sponges were sold from 1983 to 1995.
Originally made by a pharmaceutical giant now called Wyeth, it was taken off the market in 1995 after problems were found at the company's Hammonton factory.
The FDA said the sponge's safety and effectiveness were never questioned. Wyeth simply stopped selling it rather than pay to upgrade its plant.
In a 1995 "Seinfeld" episode, Elaine runs all over New York seeking the sponge, her favorite birth control, after she learns that it is being taken off the market.
The episode was apparently more than a work of imagination: Plenty of real women ran store to store, buying up all they could. Miss Dawson was living in New York City in 1995, and went hunting for sponges.
"I was hoarding them," she said. "You want to talk about art imitating life."
Since the disappearance of the Today Sponge, two foreign brands have been available over the Internet, but not in U.S. stores. Protectaid, made in Canada, lacks a withdrawal cord, and some women find it difficult to remove; Pharmatex, made in France, costs twice as much as the Today Sponge.

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