Wildlife advocates urge pharma companies to stop using crab blood

June 2, 2020

A coalition of wildlife groups are calling on Big Pharma to stop using crab blood for contamination testing in drug products. 

Blood harvested from horseshoe crabs caught of the East Coast of the U.S. and in Asia have long been used in medical endotoxin tests. But the groups, including the National Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife and the Horseshoe Crab Recovery Foundation, say that if pharma companies switched to a synthetic version called recombinant Factor C (rFC), it could save 100,000 horseshoe crabs each year in just the U.S.

The market for endotoxin tests using crab blood is currently dominated by Lonza and Charles River. Although Lonza has said that good stewardship has helped stabilize the crab population, it has also entered the market for rFC.

But here is debate about whether or not tests using rFC are as robust, and the U.S. Pharmacopeia has said that more data is needed to determine if the tests are equal. 

Meanwhile, Eli Lilly has already moved to make the switch and now conducts 90 percent of its safety tests with rFC. A biologist from Lilly told Reuters that he believes there is already ample data to support the use of rFC. 

Read the full Reuters report.