Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the major cause of lower urinary tract symptoms in men aged 50 or older. Symptoms are not normally life threatening, but often drastically affect quality of life. The number of men seeking treatment for BPH is expected to grow in the next few years as a result of the ageing male population. Estimates of annual pharmaceutical sales of BPH therapies range from US 3-10 billion, yet this market is dominated by two drug classes. Current drugs are only effective in treating mild to moderate symptoms, yet despite this no emerging contenders appear to be on the horizon. This is remarkable given the increasing number of patients with severe symptoms who are required to undergo invasive and unpleasant surgery. This review provides a brief background on prostate function and the pathophysiology of BPH followed by a brief description of BPH epidemiology, the burden it places on society and the current surgical and pharmaceutical therapies. The recent literature on emerging contenders to current therapies and novel drug targets is then reviewed, focusing on drug targets which are able to relax prostatic smooth muscle in a similar way to the alpha(1) -adrenoceptor antagonists as this appears to be the most effective mechanism of action. Other mechanisms which may be of benefit are also discussed. It is concluded that recent basic research has revealed a number of novel drug targets such as muscarinic receptor or P2X-purinoceptor antagonists which have the potential to produce more effective and safer drug treatments.