Asthma is a very common condition that can be managed well pharmacologically. In contrast, the presently available management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is poor. The phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitor roflumilast has an anti-inflammatory effect, and has recently been shown to reduce the early and late responses in mild allergic asthma. Roflumilast may become a steroid-free option for those patients who do not tolerate or want to take long-term corticosteroids to prevent asthma. In COPD, roflumilast improved measures of pulmonary function, quality of life and well being. As the inflammation of COPD is resistant to corticosteroids, roflumilast has potential as an anti-inflammatory agent in the treatment of COPD. Roflumilast is generally well tolerated.