Sir Graeme Douglas started his pharmaceutical empire as a chemist with a pharmacy in Te Atatu. In 1967, he created a cough syrup called Kofsin, the first of his branded products. Demand grew to a point where Sir Graeme had to contract manufacturing chemists to maintain a constant supply. He then expanded by importing niche pharmaceuticals, packaging them at his shop and distributing them to other pharmacists. Douglas Pharmaceuticals grew from there.
Initial growth of the manufacturing arm was slow but by the late 1980s, Douglas Pharmaceuticals was selling its products both domestically and internationally. Today, the company manufactures a variety of products in immuno-suppression, oncology, dermatology and for the central nervous system categories. Its products are now sold in 35 countries. In 2011, the company produced more than 455 million tablets, 270,000 litres and 31 metric tonnes of pharmaceutical medicines, liquids and creams.
At 83, Sir Graeme remains active in the company, which is now pursuing new challenges. After 10 years of effort and research, Douglas Pharmaceuticals has had its prescription acne medication approved by the United States Food and Drugs Administration. It is believed to be the first Kiwi-developed human medicine to be approved for use in the US.
Sir Graeme and his wife Lady Ngaire have given back significantly to their local community. Their purchase of an MRI scanner for Starship children's hospital remains the hospital's largest single personal donation. Sir Graeme and Lady Ngaire also support the Waitakere City Athletics Club, the Waitakere City Stadium and a number of medical causes including the Neurological Foundation, the West Auckland Hospice, Medical Air Abroad, the Heart Foundation, Cancer Society, the Liggins Institute and the Oliver Smales Memorial Trust.