Professor Gary Macfarlane

Professor Gary Macfarlane
Professor Gary Macfarlane
Professor Gary Macfarlane

BSc (Hons), MBChB, PhD, CStat, MD (Hons), FFPHM, DSc

Clinical Chair in Epidemiology, Dean of Interdisciplinary Research and Research Impact

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106 Health Sciences Building
Foresterhill Campus
AB25 2ZD

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School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition
Senior Vice Principals


Gary Macfarlane is Dean for Interdisciplinary Research and Research Impact. He has also held the Chair in Epidemiology (Clinical) at The University of Aberdeen since 2005 and previously held the same post at The University of Manchester from 1999. He is an Honorary Consultant in the Department of Public Health in NHS Grampian. Professor Macfarlane is Co-Director of the Versus Arthritis/Medical Research Council Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work and holds a Visiting Professor position at the University of Southampton. He trained in Statistics/ Computing Science and then Medicine at The University of Glasgow before undertaking his PhD at The University of Bristol. He worked at the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan before leading a programme of chronic pain research at the Arthritis Research UK Epidemiology Unit at the University of Manchester.

He leads the Epidemiology group at the University of Aberdeen which focusses its research in Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases (RMD). The RMD programme has programmes of research on: mechanisms of disease onset and outcome (observational epidemiology), identifying effective management for RMDs (Clinical trials and evidence synthesis),  and designing optimal delivery of care (health services research). The clinical focus is on common complex conditions (including musculoskeletal pain and fatigue, fibromyalgia, and early osteoarthritis), inflammatory conditions, and rare diseases. He currently has 11 active grants (4 as Chief Investigator, 2 as Deputy Chief Investigator) worth £11.1m. The group runs the British Society of Rheumatology Biologics Register in Ankylosing Spondylitis (BSRBR-AS) and the BSR register in Psoriatic Arthritis (BSR-PsA).  Professor Macfarlane is a Chartered Statistician of the Royal Statistical Society and a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine. 


  • BSc (Hons) Statistics and Computing Science 
    1985 - University of Glasgow 
  • MBChB Medicine and Surgery 
    1990 - University of Glasgow 
  • PhD Epidemiology 
    1993 - University of Bristol 

    The Epidemiology of Oral Cancer

  • MD (Hons) Medicine (Epidemiology) 
    2003 - University of Glasgow 
  • DSc Medicine 
    2021 - University of Glasgow 
  • CStat Statistics 
    1999 - Royal Statistical Society 
  • FFPH Public Health 
    2009 - Faculty of Public Health 

External Memberships

  • British Society for Rheumatology Board Member and Trustee; Chair of Heberden Committee
  • Scottish Pain Research Community (SPaRC): Member of Steering Group 

Research Overview

My major research interests are in the Epidemiology of Rheumatic and Musculoskleletal Disorders (RMD) with a particular focus on pain (including fibromyalgia), fatigue and axial Spondyloarthritis (axSpA). I also undertake work in cancer epidemiology.

Research Specialisms

  • Epidemiology
  • Medical Statistics
  • Medicine
  • Environmental and Public Health

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Current Research

British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register in Ankylosing Spondylitis (BSRBR-AS)

Funder: British Society for Rheumatology (who receive funds from AbbVie, Pfizer and UCB) 2012-18

CI: Professor Gary J Macfarlane

This is a  UK-wide cohort study of biologic therapy-naïve patients with axial Spondyloarthritis (axSpA according to ASAS criteria). There are two sub-cohorts: patients recruited as they are about to start anti-Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF) therapy, and those that are remaining on traditional DMARDs. Patients are followed for up to 5 years. The primary outcome of the study is safety but secondary outcomes include disease indices, quality of life and work. The study also allows the opportunity to study the epidemiology of axSpA. In December 2016 the study had recruited 2200 subjects across over 80 centres. More details of this and other related studies in Ankylosing Spondylitis are available through our RMD theme webpages.


MAMmOTH study: investigating the prevention of chronic widespread pain and fibromyalgia

Funder: Arthritis Research UK (with treatment costs from NHS Grampian, Highland and Greater Glasgow and Clyde health boards) 2015-19

CI: Professor Gary J Macfarlane

This is the first ever randomised clinical trial being conducted which aims to prevent the onset of chronic widespread pain (the characteristic feature of fibromyalgia). We are recruiting persons at high risk of developing CWP and they are randomly allocated to receive either usual care or 8 sessions of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) delivered by telephone. Potentially eligible subjects are beimg identified through a large-scale population survey.

TRIO-POPULAR: Predicting the outcome of patients undergoing knee arthroplasty

Funder: Arthritis Research UK 2012-2017

CI: Professor Gary J Macfarlane

TRIO-POPULAR is a prospective cohort study of persons scheduled to undergo total knee arthroplasty (knee replacement). Patients are recruited prior to their operation when individual, clinical and psychosocial factors are collected. They are then followed-up for two years after their operation to identify which have done well/poorly in terms of knee pain and function. The aim is to determine whether information collected prior to operation could help identify those patients most likely to benefit. This type of study can inform decision by clinicians in offering patients the most appropriate management from which they are likely to benefit. Part of this study is nested within a randomised controlled trial of total knee arthroplasty testing whether, amongst people with pain and poor function post-operatively, intensive physiotherapy improves outcome.

Fibromyalgia: Optimal Management in patients with Axial Spondyloarthritis (FOMAxS)

Funder: Arthritis Research UK 2017-18

CI: Professor Gary J Macfarlane

FOMAxS is a study which ultimately aims to provide optinal management for patients whohave both axial Spondyloarthritis (AxSpA) and fibromyalgia (FM). Fibromyalgia has been shown to be more common in patients with AxSpA (and other inflammatory rheumatic arthritides), it may result in distortion of axSpA disease indices and result in inappropriate management. This study undertakes preparatory work for a future trial with the aims of a) assessing criteria for FM amongst patients with AxSpA, b) determining how common FM occurs in patients with AxSpA, c) developing and evaluating management using a cognitive behavioural approach for patients with co-morbid FM and AxSpA.


Medical Research Council/Arthritis Research UK Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work

Professor Macfarlane principal investigator for the Aberdeen spoke of this centre, which is based at the University of Southampton. Coordinated by the University of Southampton, the centre brings together fifteen different academic institutions across the UK, with interest and expertise in rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease, and its relation to occupation, to identify effective and cost-effective ways to minimise the adverse impacts of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. The work at the University of Aberdeen is focussed on investigating: media campaigns for low back pain; axial spondyloarthritis; pain management. 

European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) revised guidelines for the management of fibromyalgia

Professor Macfarlane chaired an international group of clinicians, allied health professionals and scientists from 12 countries across Europe, in revising EULAR guidelines for the management of fibromyalgia. Since the original EULAR fibromyalgia guidelines, more than fifty randomised controlled trials have been published concerned with the phramcological or non-pharmacological management of the conditions. The revised guidelines were published, in 2016, in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases:

UK-RiME : UK Research in Musculoskeletal Epidemiology

The UK Research in Musculoskeletal Epidemiology (UK-RiME) partnership is a national collaboration between eight epidemiology centres in the United Kingdom including Aberdeen. The partnership seeks to develop a co-ordinated training programme facilitated by exchanges between departments at PhD, post-doctoral, NIHR academic clinical fellow, clinical fellow and international trainee levels.  UK-RiME facilitates access to one another’s cohorts and share analytical expertise with each other and the UK musculoskeletal research community.




Teaching Responsibilities


Postgraduate (PhD) research students

The Epidemiology group welcomes applications in our research areas of interest.

External courses

Professor Macfarlane established a week-long Intensive Course in Applied Epidemiology (ICAE) at the University of Aberdeen.  This course has been run here since 2007, having previously been run for 15 years at the University of Manchester.  The course is highly rated by attendees, with attendees from Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australasia.  The course is annual and starts on the first Monday in March. For further details and / or to register for the next course please see our ICAE web page.

The Epidemiology Group has also put on shorter courses at external locations including Warsaw and Bucharest and also runs courses focussed on specific clinical disciplines such as  "Essentials in Epidemiology for Reproductive Health".



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  • Patient-reported outcomes in axial spondyloarthritis and psoriatic arthritis patients treated with secukinumab for 24 months in daily clinical practice

    Christiansen, S. N., Horskjær Rasmussen, S., Pons, M., Michelsen, B., Glintborg, B., Gudbjornsson, B., Grondal, G., Vencovsky, J., Loft, A. G., Rotar, Z., Pirkmajer, K. P., Nissen, M. J., Baranová, J., Macfarlane, G. J., Jones, G. T., Iannone, F., Caporali, R., Laas, K., Vorobjov, S., Giuseppe, D. D., Olofsson, T., Provan, S. A., Fagerli, K. M., Castrejon, I., Otero-Varela, L., van de Sande, M., van der Horst-Bruinsma, I., Nordström, D., Kuusalo, L., Bernardes, M., Hetland, M. L., Østergaard, M., Midtbøll Ørnbjerg, L.
    Seminars in arthritis and rheumatism, vol. 65, 152388
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • The worldwide prevalence of Psoriatic Arthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis

    Lembke, S., Macfarlane, G., Jones, G. T.
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • The Prevalence of Chronic Pain in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review Update and Meta-analysis

    Chambers, C. T., Dol, J., Tutelman, P. R., Langley, C. L., Parker, J. A., Cormier, B. T., Macfarlane, G., Jones, G., Chapman, D., Proudfoo, N., Grant, A., Marianayagam, J.
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Predictors of DAPSA28 remission in patients with psoriatic arthritis initiating a first TNF-inhibitor: results from 13 European registries

    Linde, L., Ørnbjerg, L. M., Georgiadis, S., Rasmussen, S. H., Lindström, U., Askling, J., Michelsen, B., Di Giuseppe, D., Wallman, J. K., Gudbjornsson, B., Love, T. J., Nordström, D., Yli-Kerttula, T., Nekvindova, L., Vencovský, J., Iannone, F., Cauli, A., Loft, A. G., Glintborg, B., Laas, K., Rotar, Z., Tomšič, M., Macfarlane, G., Möller, B., Van de Sande, M. G., Codreanu, C., Nissen, M. J., Birlik, M., Erten, S., Santos, M. J., Vieira-Sousa, E., Hetland, M. L., Østergaard, M.
    Rheumatology, vol. 63, no. 3, pp. 751–764
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • The experience of poor sleep in people with fibromyalgia: a qualitative meta-synthesis

    Robertson, C., Beasley, M., Stevens, M., Imamura, M., Whibley, D., Aucott, L., Manson, P., Abhishek, A., Dulake, D., Macfarlane, G., Tang, N. K. Y., Brazzelli, M., Gillies, K.
    Sleep Medicine, vol. 115, no. Suppl 1, pp. 192
    Contributions to Journals: Abstracts
  • Diagnostic Accuracy of HPV16 Early Antigen Serology For HPV-Driven Oropharyngeal Cancer is Independent of Age and Sex

    Kusters, J. M., Diergaarde, B., Ness, A. R., van der Loef, M. F. S., Heijne, J. C., Schroeder, L., Hueniken, K., Mckay, J. D., Macfarlane, G., Lagiou, P., Lagiou, A., Polesel, J., Agudo, A., Alemany, L., Ahrens, W., Healy, C. M., Conway, D. I., Robinson, M., Canova, C., Holcátová, I., Richiardi, L., Znaor, A., Pring, M., Thomas, S., Hayes, N., Liu, G., Hung, R. J., Brennan, P., Olshan, A. F., Virani, S., Waterboer, T.
    International Journal of Cancer, vol. 154, no. 2, pp. 289-402
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Follow-Up of Patients With Axial Spondyloarthritis in Specialist Health Care With Remote Monitoring and Self-Monitoring Compared With Regular Face-to-Face Follow-Up Visits (the ReMonit Study): Protocol for a Randomized, Controlled Open-Label Noninferiority Trial

    Berg, I. J., Tveter, A. T., Bakland, G., Hakim, S., Kristianslund, E. K., Lillegraven, S., Macfarlane, G. J., Moholt, E., Provan, S. A., Sexton, J., Thomassen, E. E., De Thurah, A., Gossec, L., Haavardsholm, E. A., Østerås, N.
    JMIR Research Protocols, vol. 12, no. 1, e52872
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Do current methods of measuring the impact of chronic pain on work reflect the experience of working-age adults?: An integrated mixed methods systematic narrative review

    Stagg, A. L., Madan, I., Fear, N. S., Stevens, M., Wainwright, E., Hoving, J. L., Macfarlane, G., Hollick, R., Morton, L.
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Self-reported pain treatment practices among U.S. and Canadian adults: Findings from a population survey

    Zajacova, A., Filho, A. P., Limani, M., Grol-Prokopczyk, H., Zimmer, Z., Scherbakov, D., Fillingim, R. B., Hayward, M. D., Gilron, I., Macfarlane, G., Epidemiology Group
    Innovation in aging, vol. 7, no. 10, igad103
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Sex differences in the effectiveness of first-line tumour necrosis factor inhibitors in axial spondyloarthritis: Results from the EuroSpA Research Collaboration Network

    Hellamand, P., Van De Sande, M., Ørnbjerg, L. M., Klausch, T., Nurmohamed, M. T., Van Vollenhoven, R. F., Nordström, D., Hokkanen, A. M., Santos, M. J., Vieira-Sousa, E., Loft, A. G., Glintborg, B., Hetland, M. L., Lindström, U., Wallman, J. K., Michelsen, B., Klami Kristianslund, E., Ciurea, A., Nissen, M. S., Codreanu, C., Mogosan, C., Macfarlane, G. J., Rotariu, O., Rotar, Z., Tomšič, M., Castrejon, I., Otero-Varela, L., Gudbjornsson, B., Geirsson, A. J., Vencovský, J., Pavelka, K., Gulle, S., Zengin, B., Iannone, F., Foti, R., Ostergaard, M., Van Der Horst-Bruinsma, I.
    RMD Open, vol. 9, no. 4, e003325
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
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