Sulbutiamine is a highly lipid soluble synthetic analogue of vitamin B(1) and is used clinically for the treatment of asthenia. The aim of our study was to demonstrate whether sulbutiamine is able to attenuate trophic factor deprivation induced cell death to transformed retinal ganglion cells (RGC-5). Cells were subjected to serum deprivation for defined periods and sulbutiamine at different concentrations was added to the cultures. Various procedures (e.g. cell viability assays, apoptosis assay, reactive oxygen species analysis, Western blot analysis, flow cytometric analysis, glutathione (GSH) and glutathione-S-transferase (GST) measurement) were used to demonstrate the effect of sulbutiamine. Sulbutiamine dose-dependently attenuated apoptotic cell death induced by serum deprivation and stimulated GSH and GST activity. Moreover, sulbutiamine decreased the expression of cleaved caspase-3 and AIF. This study demonstrates for the first time that sulbutiamine is able to attenuate trophic factor deprivation induced apoptotic cell death in neuronal cells in culture.