Agents which increase intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) may have an antagonistic effect on pro-inflammatory molecule production so that inhibitors of the cAMP degrading phosphodiesterases have been identified as promising drugs in chronic inflammatory disorders. Although many such inhibitors have been developed, their introduction in the clinic has been hampered by their narrow therapeutic window with side effects such as nausea and emesis occurring at sub-therapeutic levels. The latest generation of inhibitors selective for phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4), such as apremilast and roflumilast, seems to have an improved therapeutic index. While roflumilast has been approved for the treatment of exacerbated chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), apremilast shows promising activity in dermatological and rheumatological conditions. Studies in psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis have demonstrated clinical activity of apremilast. Efficacy in psoriasis is probably equivalent to methotrexate but less than that of monoclonal antibody inhibitors of tumour necrosis factor (TNFi). Similarly, in psoriatic arthritis efficacy is less than that of TNF inhibitors. PDE4 inhibitors hold the promise to broaden the portfolio of anti-inflammatory therapeutic approaches in a range of chronic inflammatory diseases which may include granulomatous skin diseases, some subtypes of chronic eczema and probably cutaneous lupus erythematosus. In this review, the authors highlight the mode of action of PDE4 inhibitors on skin and joint inflammatory responses and discuss their future role in clinical practice. Current developments in the field including the development of topical applications and the development of PDE4 inhibitors which specifically target the subform PDE4B will be discussed.