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17 Jul 2023

PSCI launches progressive position on the use of Horseshoe Crabs

A quarterly series of articles about responsible supply chain management from the PSCI. 

Horseshoe Crabs are an ancient group of crab species that have been around for more than 400 million years. Their blood has the remarkable property of indicating certain types of endotoxins. 

For this reason, it has been harvested by the medical and pharma industries to use as a test for these harmful compounds. Endotoxin testing using approved methods is a key demand of the regulators who authorise pharmaceutical development and manufacturing. 

While this process does not require the death of the animal, there are still questions over possible animal welfare, biodiversity, and sustainability impacts from the collection of these materials from populations of wild crabs. Of the three affected species of Horseshoe Crabs across the USA and Asia, one Asian species is listed as endangered, with concerns over the other Asian species where data is deficient.

The connection between the Horseshoe Crab species and the pharmaceutical sector does highlight the importance of biodiversity for human health and acts an excellent example of interdependence between medicine and biodiversity. It also illustrates the complexity of biodiversity-related sourcing in a regulated industry.

However, it also emphasizes the need for the industry to take an active position, and so the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI) has launched our progressive position paper on what we believe to be good practice for the use of Horseshoe Crab blood within the pharmaceutical industry.

“The PSCI is releasing this position paper to encourage our members to protect the endangered species, seek out alternatives to these materials, and to adopt an intentional approach to sourcing where it remains necessary. Our commitment is to work together now, to drive this transition towards a long-term sustainable position and to play our part in protecting these remarkable species.” 
– A spokesperson for the PSCI.
Representing 75 of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, the PSCI will encourage its members to commit to no further collection from endangered species, minimising the use of these materials, and sharing information to understand the surrounding animal welfare and conservation questions.

While this paper is not a membership requirement for the PSCI, it does outline the organisation’s views on good practice as it continues its commitment to the protection of all endangered species. It is important the industry has a strategy for reducing its dependence on Horseshoe Crab-derived products, and the PSCI is committed to working with its members to facilitate their progress and report the position across the whole industry.

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Mentioned Companies
PSCI – Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative
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