Gene transfer technologies enable the controlled, targeted and sustained expression of gene products at precise anatomical locations, such as the joint. In this way, they offer the potential for more-effective, less-expensive treatments of joint diseases with fewer extra-articular adverse effects. A large body of preclinical data confirms the utility of intra-articular gene therapy in animal models of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. However, relatively few clinical trials have been conducted, only one of which has completed phase II. This article summarizes the status in 2010 of the clinical development of gene therapy for arthritis, identifies certain constraints to progress and suggests possible solutions.