The poly(ADP-ribose)polymerases (PARPs) catalyse the transfer of ADP-ribose units from the substrate NAD+ to acceptor proteins, biosynthesising polyanionic poly(ADP-ribose) polymers. A major isoform, PARP-1, has been the target for design of inhibitors for over twenty-five years. Inhibitors of the activity of PARP-1 have been claimed to have applications in the treatment of many disease states, including cancer, haemorrhagic shock, cardiac infarct, stroke, diabetes, inflammation and retroviral infection, but only recently have PARP-1 inhibitors entered clinical trial. Most PARP-1 inhibitors mimic the nicotinamide of NAD+ and the structure-activity relationships are understood in terms of the structure of the catalytic site. However, five questions remain if PARP-1 inhibitors are to realise their potential in treating human diseases. Firstly, the consensus pharmacophore is a benzamide with N-H conformationally constrained anti to the carbonyl-arene bond but this is also a "pharmacophore" for insolubility in water; can water-solubility be designed into inhibitors without loss of potency? Secondly, some potential clinical applications require tissue-selective PARP-1 inhibition; is this possible through prodrug approaches? Thirdly, different diseases may require therapeutic PARP-1 inhibition to be either short-term or chronic; are there potential problems associated with chronic inhibition of this DNA-repair process? Fourthly, PARP-1 is one of at least eighteen isoforms; is isoform-selectivity essential, desirable or even possible? Fifthly, PARP activity can be inhibited in cells by inhibition of poly(ADP-ribose)glycohydrolase (PARG); will this be a viable strategy for future drug design? The answers to these questions will determine the future of disease therapy through inhibition of PARP.