Nearly a year after the Food and Drug Administration approved Norplant, the contraceptive that works for as long as five years after it is implanted in a woman's upper arm, public health officials and family-planning clinics say the device works well and is on its way to wide usage.
State public health officials say the demand for Norplant at subsidized family-planning clinics is so large that it is impossible to keep up with.
"We've done 1,200 insertions, and we have waiting lists all over for the next 800 we ordered," said Carla Schmidt of the Florida Family Health Service.
In every state except California and Massachusetts, Medicaid now covers the cost of the device for poor women. And some health experts predict that Norplant will become immensely popular as more women become aware of it.
Many private gynecologists, however, seem less certain that the use of Norplant will be widespread. The price is a real obstacle for many women, they say, since many insurance policies do not cover contraceptives.
Birth-control pills cost $15 to $30 a month. It costs $350 for the Norplant device, plus $150 to $650 to the person who inserts the six matchstick-size capsules under the skin.