Professor Gary Macfarlane
BSc (Hons), MBChB, PhD, CStat, MD (Hons), FFPHM, DSc
Clinical Chair in Epidemiology, Dean of Interdisciplinary Research and Research Impact
Research Office: Epidemiology Group, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, Health Sciences Building (1st floor), Foresterhill, Aberdeen, United Kingdom AB25 2ZD
Dean's Office: University Office (Room 34), University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen, AB24 3FX
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. 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). We are also part of the Arthritis Research UK/Medical Research Council Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work (of which Professor Macfarlane is Deputy Director). Professor Macfarlane is a Chartered Statistician of the Royal Statistical Society and a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine.
- British Society for Rheumatology Board Member and Trustee; Chair of Heberden Committee
- Scottish Pain Research Community (SPaRC): Member of Steering Group
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.
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.
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 recrutied prior to their operation when individual, clinical and psychosocial factors are colelcted. 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 offerring 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.
You can read about our research programme, including studies underway, research outputs and plain language summaries here: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/iahs/research/epidemiology/research-107.php
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: http://ard.bmj.com/content/early/2016/07/04/annrheumdis-2016-209724.full
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.
Professor Macfarlane contributes lectures to the "Introduction to Epidemiology" module which is part of two MSc programmes: Masters in a Public Health; Global Health and Management. In addition he acts as tutor for the MBChB Special Study Module in "Evaluating Evidence".
Postgraduate (PhD) research students
The Epidemiology group currently has 4 PhD students. we welcome applications in our areas of interest. Professor Macfarlane is:
- lead supervisor for LaKrista Morton who is undertaking a PhD on "Media Campaigns for Back Pain" and contributing to Aberdeen's programme of work within the MRC/Arthritis Research UK Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work. She also holds an Elphinstone PhD scholarship.
- co-supervisor for Kinga-Janik-Koncewicz who holds an Elphinstone PhD scholarship and is undertaking PhD work on the contribution of obesity to the cancer burden in Central and Eastern Europe
- co-supervisor of Hadeel Abbood who is based on the Dental School, but part of her work involves the relationship between oral health and axial spondyloarthritis
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 recent attendees from as far afield as the Far East, South America and Australia. For further details and / or to register for the 2016 course please see our ICAE web page.
The Epidemiology Group has strong links with the Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention at the Maria Sklodowska-Curie Cancer Center and Institute of Oncology, Warsaw, and in 2013 held the first Intensive Course in Epidemiology and Biostatistics in Warsaw. 2014 saw the first course in "Essentials in Epidemiology for Reproductive Health", held in Aberdeen.
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Illness perceptions and illness behaviours in back pain: A cross-sectional cluster analysisEuropean Journal of Pain, vol. 25, no. 9, pp. 1948-1958Contributions to Journals: Articles
The effect of COVID19 public health restrictions on the health of people with musculoskeletal conditions and symptoms: the CONTAIN studyRheumatology, vol. 60, no. SI, pp. SI13-SI24Contributions to Journals: Articles
Cross-Validation of Good versus Poor Self-reported Outcome Trajectory Types Following Knee ArthroplastyOsteoarthritis and CartilageContributions to Journals: Articles
The changing states of fibromyalgia in patients with axial spondyloarthritis: results from the British Society of Rheumatology Biologics Register for Ankylosing SpondylitisRheumatology, vol. 60, no. 9, pp. 4121–4129Contributions to Journals: Articles
Polygenic risk scores have high diagnostic capacity in ankylosing spondylitisAnnals of the Rheumatic Diseases, vol. 80, no. 9, pp. 1168-1174Contributions to Journals: Articles
What to do about …… authorship?British Journal of Pain, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 249-250Contributions to Journals: Articles
Occupational socioeconomic risk associations for head and neck cancer in Europe and South America: individual participant data analysis of pooled case-control studies within the INHANCE ConsortiumJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health, vol. 75, pp. 779-787Contributions to Journals: Articles
Association between comorbidities and disease activity in axial spondyloarthritis: results from the BSRBR-ASRheumatology, vol. 60, no. 7, keaa768Contributions to Journals: Articles
Maintaining musculoskeletal health using a behavioural therapy approach: a population-based randomised controlled trial (the MAmMOTH Study)Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, vol. 80, no. 7, pp. 903-911Contributions to Journals: Articles
Comparing people who have and have not received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia: a cross-sectional survey within the PACFiND studyArthritis Care & ResearchContributions to Journals: Articles