Feature Archive

A Star Returns: Elaine Benes' Favorite Form of Birth Control Makes a Comeback

WebMD Feature

After a four-year lapse, that little, round, pink piece of foam that gained national attention on the sitcom "Seinfeld" is scheduled for a comeback. The Today sponge, discontinued in 1995, may be back on shelves this fall, thanks to Allendale Pharmaceuticals of Allendale, New Jersey.

When the apparatus became scarce and, ultimately unavailable, many sponge devotees were outraged. Legend has it that they were driven to hoard the devices as Jerry Seinfeld's pal Elaine did on the TV show. In fact, Elaine weighed the "sponge-worthiness" of potential lovers to determine whether sleeping with them was worth giving up one of her coveted sponges.

An Old Favorite

Once the most popular female-controlled, over-the-counter form of birth control, the sponge was used by 6.4 million women between 1983 and 1995. It was discontinued when the original manufacturers, American Home Products, decided not to spend the hefty amount needed to bring its factory equipment up to Federal Drug Administration (FDA) standards. The sponge was not pulled from the marketplace because of lack of safety or efficacy, as some rumors had suggested. In fact, the FDA never revoked its approval. Now that Allendale owns the equipment and rights, the company hopes to make the sponge widely available once again.

"I've been astounded by the reception," says Gene Detroyer, Allendale's chief executive officer, concerning women's reactions to the possible reintroduction. He's received an outpouring of e-mail messages from women who can't wait to get their hands on the sponges. "I knew it was going to be well-received because of focus groups we did, but this has surpassed my greatest expectations," he observes.