The mechanism of the long duration of action of salmeterol at beta(2)-adrenoceptors has long been a matter of debate, and is still unresolved. Szczuka and colleagues have both summarized the position to date and suggested a new mechanistic contender, receptor rebinding. Despite this, they still do not come to any clear conclusion. Much of the literature data that they have drawn upon appears contradictory, and mathematical models are inevitably flawed by the questionable validity of key values applied to them. Although the issue will undoubtedly eventually be resolved, it will probably require investigators to apply carefully designed studies on simple experimental systems such as isolated membranes or cultured cells. Only then should studies be extended to more complex systems such as isolated preparations of airways smooth muscle, where tissue bulk inevitably presents a complicating factor, particularly where relatively lipophilic compounds are concerned.