Rifampicin is an antibacterial drug which is highly effective in the treatment of tuberculosis and leprosy. It has been shown to exert antioxidative as well as anti-apoptotic effects. In this study, the neuroprotective effect of rifampicin was examined after 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+)-induced dopaminergic cell death in vitro, and on the survival of retinal ganglion cells after optic nerve transection in vivo. Rifampicin administration significantly increased the number of surviving dopaminergic neurons after MPP+ intoxication as compared to control cultures. No cytotoxic effects were noted even at final rifampicin concentrations of 100 μM. In the rifampicin-treated group, retinal ganglion cell survival was significantly increased after axotomy as compared with vehicle-treated and phosphate-buffered saline-treated control animals. These results suggest that rifampicin is able to prevent neuronal degeneration in cell death paradigms involving oxidative stress and activation of apoptotic pathways. It may thus play a role in the future treatments of neurodegenerative disorders.