This year is the 50th anniversary of the introduction into clinical use of the first modern inhaler for the management of asthma--the pressurised metered-dose inhaler (pMDI). The pMDI was initially used for the administration of the non-selective beta-agonists adrenaline and isoprenaline. However, the epidemic of asthma deaths which occurred in the 1960s led to these drugs being superseded by the selective short-acting beta-agonist salbutamol, and the first inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) beclomethasone. At the same time, sodium cromoglycate was introduced, to be administered via the first dry-powder inhaler--the Spinhaler--but owing to its relatively weak anti-inflammatory action its use is now very limited. Over the last 10 years, the long-acting beta-agonists (LABAs) have become an important add-on therapy for the management of asthma, and they are now often used with ICS in a single ICS/LABA combination inhaler.