The Today sponge is a brand of plastic contraceptive sponge saturated with a spermicide nonoxynol-9 to prevent conception. Within two years of its launch, Today had become the largest selling over-the-counter female contraceptive in the United States, and was soon rolled out into other markets.
The Today sponge dates back to 1976 when it was created by Bruce Ward Vorhauer. Vorhauer struggled for 7 years to get the device approved and on the market. Following FDA approval, the brand was rolled out in June 1983. The product, manufactured by VLI Corp. of Irvine, California, was classified as "relatively safe" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1984. A 1984 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology compared it with the diaphragm and found that the Today sponge was a "safe and acceptable method of contraception with an effectiveness rate in the range of other vaginal contraceptives." The Today sponge also broke the barrier in several markets for advertising contraceptive devices.
The Today sponge "was manufactured until 1995, when FDA imposed new manufacturing standards." The product had several setbacks while marketed, including a link to toxic shock syndrome. Personal money problems forced Vorhauer to sell the entire manufacturing operation to American Home Products, now Wyeth. Almost the entire content of the facility was moved to the Whitehall-Robbins facility in Hammonton, New Jersey from its original California home. The sponge was removed from the U.S. market in 1994 after problems were found at the facility related to the DI water system. The water system, which was originally sized for much larger production, could not produce the small amounts of DI water required for this one product and became repeatedly contaminated. Wyeth stopped selling the sponge rather than move production or modify its plant, based on slumping sales and to avoid any further FDA issues.
In 1998 Allendale Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights to the Today sponge, and it was once again available. New FDA standards for manufacturing and record-keeping forced repeated delays, but the Today sponge was finally re-introduced in Canada in March 2003, and in the U.S. in September 2005. In January 2007, Allendale Pharmaceuticals was acquired by Synova Healthcare, Inc. In December 2007 Synova filed for bankruptcy reorganization; in 2008 the manufacturing rights to the Today sponge were purchased by Alvogen. In mid May 2009, Mayer Laboratories, Inc. the distributor of the Today Vaginal Contraceptive Sponge for the US, Canada and the EU, announced the Today Sponge had been re-launched in the United States.
A 1995 Seinfeld episode, "The Sponge," revolved around Elaine's attempts to procure her favorite form of birth control, the discontinued Today sponge, and her rationing them based on whether a potential sex partner was "sponge-worthy."
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- FDA's approval of the Today contraceptive sponge: hearing before a subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations, House of Representatives, Ninety-eighth Congress, first session, July 13, 1983
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- "Synova Healthcare, maker of contraceptive sponge filed for bankruptcy". December 19, 2007.
- "Today Sponge Returns To Store Shelves". Mayer Laboratories, Inc. 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
- Lavery, David and Sara Lewis Dunne (2006). Seinfeld, master of its domain: revisiting television's greatest sitcom, p. 247. Continuum International Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-8264-1803-6