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 product -- it is now available over the Internet and could be on U.S. shelves in a year or so -- is expected to lead to bulk buying, and perhaps more spontaneous romance, among its fiercely loyal users.
"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 last spring.
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 within a year to sell them in U.S. stores.
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Originally made by a pharmaceutical giant now called Wyeth, it was taken off the market in 1995 after problems were found at the company's Hammonton factory.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 around New York seeking the sponge, her favorite method of birth control. She locates a whole case at a pharmacy, and stretches the supply by deciding whether a boyfriend is "spongeworthy." She makes her guy scrub his bathroom and pass other tests before she will have sex with him.
The episode was apparently more than a work of imagination: Plenty of real women ran from store to store, buying up all they could.
"I didn't do the 'spongeworthy' test, but I was hoarding them," Dawson said. "You want to talk about art imitating life!"