The large epithelial surface area, the high organ vascularization, the thin nature of the alveolar epithelium and the immense capacity for solute exchange are factors that led the lung to serve as an ideal administration route for the application of drugs for treatment of systemic disorders. However, the deposition behaviour of aerosol particles in the respiratory tract depends on a number of physical (e.g. properties of the particle), chemical (e.g. properties of the drug) and physiological (e.g. breathing pattern, pulmonary diseases) factors. If these are not considered, it will not be possible to deposit a reproducible and sufficient amount of drug in a predefined lung region by means of aerosol inhalation. The lack of consideration of such issues led to many problems in inhalation drug therapy for many years mainly because physiological background of aerosol inhalation was not fully understood. However, over the last 20 years, there has been considerable progress in aerosol research and in the understanding of the underlying mechanisms of particle inhalation and pulmonary particle deposition. As a consequence, an increasing number of studies have been performed for the lung administration of drugs using a variety of different inhalation techniques. This review describes the physical and in part some of the physiological requirements that need to be considered for the optimization of pulmonary drug delivery to target certain lung regions.