UPDATE 2-U.S. government agrees to buy Becton's COVID-19 testing devices

(Adds comment from Becton executive and additional details on its antigen test)

July 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. government will buy Becton, Dickinson and Co’s COVID-19 testing devices and kits, the company said on Wednesday, as it ramps up its testing for the virus that has been spreading at an alarming rate.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has agreed to buy 2,000 of its BD Veritor Plus Systems and 750,000 of its SARS-CoV-2 antigen test kits, the company said.

According to U.S. health experts, broad testing for the virus in the country needs to be ramped up as the White House considers when and how to lift stay-at-home restrictions and lockdowns triggered by the pandemic. (

“There is absolutely a recognized need for this type of testing,” Dave Hickey, president of Becton Dickinson’s integrated diagnostic solutions business, said in an interview.

“To me, the unmet need is how do you deploy a very accurate, sensitive test into a large variety of decentralized testing spaces?”

The medical device maker said it would start distributing the devices and kits next week.

Earlier this month, Becton Dickinson said it plans to produce 10 millions tests through September and then ramp up to producing 2 million tests per week thereafter.

Analysts at Wells Fargo Securities estimated that Becton Dickinson could earn as much as $500 million in sales each quarter from the tests once production ramps up.

The device received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this month. It is already being used by more than 25,000 hospitals, apart from clinician offices, urgent care centers and retail pharmacies in all 50 U.S. states.

Becton said last week that the U.S. government would invest $42 million in the company to expand its manufacturing capacity for syringes and needles to support vaccination efforts against COVID-19. (Reporting by Trisha Roy in Bengaluru and Carl O’Donnell in New York; Editing by Maju Samuel, Anil D’Silva and Jonathan Oatis)