Biologics have advanced the therapy of adult and pediatric arthritis. They have been linked to rare serious adverse outcomes, but the actual risk of these events is controversial in adults, and largely unknown in pediatrics. Because of the paucity of safety and efficacy data in children, pediatric rheumatologists often rely on the adult literature. Herein, we reviewed the adult and pediatric literature on five classes of medicines: Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, anakinra, rituximab, abatacept, and tocilizumab. For efficacy, we reviewed randomized controlled studies in adults, but did include lesser qualities of evidence for pediatrics. For safety, we utilized prospective and retrospective studies, rarely including reports from other inflammatory conditions. The review included studies on rheumatoid arthritis and spondyloarthritis, as well as juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Overall, we found that the TNF inhibitors have generally been found safe and effective in adult and pediatric use, although risks of infections and other adverse events are discussed. Anakinra, rituximab, abatacept, and tocilizumab have also shown positive results in adult trials, but there is minimal pediatric data published with the exception of small studies involving the subgroup of children with systemic onset juvenile idiopathic arthritis, in whom anakinra and tocilizumab may be effective therapies. © 2008 Dove Medical Press Limited. All rights reserved.