Asthma is a major and increasing global health problem and, despite major advances in therapy, many patients' symptoms are not adequately controlled. Treatment with combination inhalers, which contain a corticosteroid and long-acting beta(2) adrenoceptor agonist, is the most effective current therapy. There is therefore a search for new therapies, particularly safe and effective oral treatments and those that are more efficacious in severe asthma. New therapies in development include mediator antagonists and inhibitors of cytokines, although these therapies might be too specific to be very effective. New anti-inflammatory therapies include corticosteroids and inhibitors of phosphodiesterase-4, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase and nuclear factor-kappaB. The prospects for a curative treatment are on the horizon.