Pakistan tells OIC COVID-19 offers opportunity to rethink healthcare spending

In this file photo, flags of Organization of Islamic Cooperation member-states fly in front of the Abraj al-Bait Towers in Makkah on Nov. 17, 2016. (AFP)
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Updated 11 April 2020

Pakistan tells OIC COVID-19 offers opportunity to rethink healthcare spending

  • OIC should utilize comparative advantage of member states for development of pharmaceutical products, says Zafar Mirza
  • A joint statement asked OIC countries to share information, experiences and capabilities to combat the virus

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Friday that the coronavirus pandemic not only a challenge but also an opportunity for introspection, especially on health care spending and strengthening the overall response to such emergency situations.

The statement was made by the prime minister’s special adviser, Dr. Zafar Mirza, while addressing a virtual meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Steering Committee on Health to discuss the ongoing situation around the world that has been triggered by the spread of coronavirus.

“Emphasizing the importance of health security as a key component of national security, he underlined the need to develop health regulations at international level and a legal framework at national level to enhance investment in health care security infrastructure,” said an official handout circulated by the foreign office after the meeting.

He also emphasized that “the OIC should strengthen its capacity to cope with this unprecedented challenge by exploiting comparative advantage of member states in the development of pharmaceutical products, vaccines and PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). He also highlighted Pakistan’s comparative advantage in the health care sector.”

During the meeting, OIC Secretary General Dr. Yousef A. Al-Othaimeen urged the OIC member countries to take immediate and decisive measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said that the OIC was prepared to utilize its resources to help the population of the Muslim.

“A joint statement was also issued at the end of the virtual meeting which, inter alia, called on the OIC countries to exchange more information, experiences and capabilities to combat COVID-19 pandemic,” the foreign office statement added.

Pakistani breast cancer detection startup hopes to get FDA approval by next year

Updated 20 October 2020

Pakistani breast cancer detection startup hopes to get FDA approval by next year

  • Xylexa Inc. has developed software that produces mammogram results within seconds, pushing diagnosis accuracy up to 90 percent
  • Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer in Asia with approximately 90,000 new cases diagnosed every year

ISLAMABAD: The CEO of a Pakistani startup that uses artificial intelligence and image processing to detect breast cancer said this week he was hopeful his software would break onto the global stage next year after getting approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Xylexa Inc., a computer-aided diagnostics platform, has developed software that processes mammograms within seconds and produces results, pushing diagnosis accuracy up to 90 percent while also cutting costs and time.
Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and Pakistan has the highest rate of the disease in Asia, with approximately 90,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Of those, 40,000 patients do not survive, according to data from the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, which says approximately one out of every nine Pakistani women are likely to suffer from breast cancer. Around 77 percent cases of invasive breast cancer occur in women above 50 years, though if diagnosed early, the survival rate is close to 90 percent.
“Breast cancer’s early diagnosis is the biggest challenge [and] when a radiologist reads a mammogram with a naked eye, the [chances of] misdiagnosis are over 30 percent,” Shahrukh Babar, Xylexa’s chief executive officer, told Arab News on Monday.
“We have developed an artificial intelligence-based decision support system which reads mammograms, processes them through innovative algorithms and exactly pinpoints where the anomaly is present and what type of anomaly it is, either it is benign or belligerent,” Babar said. “There is no subscription fee for our service as hospitals and individuals can pay per study. It is a cloud based application which can be accessed easily anywhere and anytime. Even patients will be able to upload their mammograms to get the diagnosis.”
The company began to develop the software in early 2017, and it is now being used on a trial basis in hospitals in The Netherlands and Germany. Xylexa hopes to release its application performance results by November and is developing partnerships with hospitals in Dubai, Europe and the US before it launches the software commercially next year after getting FDA certification, the CEO said.
“We are launching it in Pakistan by first quarter of next year, and will be launching it globally in 2021,” Babar said, adding that his company was closely working with an advisory board of oncologists and radiologists from North America and Canada to fine-tune the product.
Healthcare specialists say death by breast cancer can be prevented in one third of women if routine mammography was performed in women over 50 years of age.
“It is quite alarming that breast cancer is becoming common in younger age groups,” said Dr. Erum Khan, a surgeon and healthcare specialist at Polyclinic hospital in Islamabad. “The the only way to tackle it effectively is early and accurate detection.”