The Today Sponge, the over-thecounter contraceptive that a woman could use anytime, anywhere and often without her partner’s knowledge, is no more.
Whitehall-Robins Healthcare, the New Jersey company that has manufactured Today since 1983, announced Tuesday that it was permanently halting production of the contraceptive - laying off about 90 workers at its Hammonton, N.J., plant in the process.
Company officials cited “stringent” manufacturing requirements from the Food and Drug Administration. They said they could not afford to meet those requirements and continue to offer Today at the same price, as low as $1.30 per sponge, which could be used for 24 hours and during multiple acts of intercourse.
An FDA spokesman, Don McLearn, said Tuesday the agency’s inspectors had found numerous instances of water contamination and bacterial contamination of the air at the Hammonton plant, which the company had not corrected.
“If there is bacteria in the plant, then in theory there is bacteria in the product,” McLearn said.
But McLearn and company officials emphasized this did not mean that Today users faced any health risks. “There are no safety hazards associated with the product nor have there been,” said company spokeswoman Ann Brice.
Used by an estimated 400,000 American women, Today was a soft, round polyurethane disc treated with the spermicide nonoxynol-9.
Women liked it for its spontaneity and ease. “It’s small, easily carried - not a messy thing to deal with,” said Michael Spence, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Medical College of Pennsylvania-Hahnemann University.