Identification of the primary products of cyclo-oxygenase (COX)/prostaglandin synthase(s), which occurred between 1958 and 1976, was followed by a classification system for prostanoid receptors (DP, EP(1), EP(2) ...) based mainly on the pharmacological actions of natural and synthetic agonists and a few antagonists. The design of potent selective antagonists was rapid for certain prostanoid receptors (EP(1), TP), slow for others (FP, IP) and has yet to be achieved in certain cases (EP(2)). While some antagonists are structurally related to the natural agonist, most recent compounds are 'non-prostanoid' (often acyl-sulphonamides) and have emerged from high-throughput screening of compound libraries, made possible by the development of (functional) assays involving single recombinant prostanoid receptors. Selective antagonists have been crucial to defining the roles of PGD(2) (acting on DP(1) and DP(2) receptors) and PGE(2) (on EP(1) and EP(4) receptors) in various inflammatory conditions; there are clear opportunities for therapeutic intervention. The vast endeavour on TP (thromboxane) antagonists is considered in relation to their limited pharmaceutical success in the cardiovascular area. Correspondingly, the clinical utility of IP (prostacyclin) antagonists is assessed in relation to the cloud hanging over the long-term safety of selective COX-2 inhibitors. Aspirin apart, COX inhibitors broadly suppress all prostanoid pathways, while high selectivity has been a major goal in receptor antagonist development; more targeted therapy may require an intermediate position with defined antagonist selectivity profiles. This review is intended to provide overviews of each antagonist class (including prostamide antagonists), covering major development strategies and current and potential clinical usage.