Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is spread to human by infected ticks
Carlow Senator, Jennifer Murnane O'Connor, has hit out at plans to tax health supplements and highlighted a local case where a woman with Lyme disease would no longer be able to afford them if they were taxed.
There has been an angry reaction to moves that could see Revenue impose a VAT rate of 23% on food supplements including vitamins, minerals, probiotics, Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and folic acid.
Speaking in the Seanad recently, Senator Murnane O'Connor said: "I recently joined an awareness rally for Lyme disease. One of the campaigners comes from Carlow and she relies on health supplements so she can live a normal life because she has Lyme disease.
"She spends over €200 a month on health supplements prescribed by her consultant. If her supplements are hit with this tax, she will not be able to afford them.
"We cannot on the one hand counsel awareness of diseases such as Lyme disease and then not help the victims. I call on the Minister (for Health, Sim Harris) to come into the Seanad before March 1."
It was announced last year that State officials plan to clamp down on the food supplement industry, which has for decades benefited from a VAT exemption on certain products.
While the standard 23% rate has applied to food supplements, certain products like vitamins, minerals and fish oils were exempt from VAT.
The Revenue Commissioners published its revised guidance at the end of last year on how various food supplements would be treated for VAT purposes from March 1 of this year.
It was reported the tax collector would remove the concession from that date so that all food supplements would be liable for the 23% levy.
Senator Murnane O'Connor added: "This will have serious implications for many food and food supplement items and it will end up costing the end consumer far more.
"In the Revenue review, it referred to various items which would continue to be deemed to be food items and therefore be exempt from VAT.
"Typically, these would be products that are licensed or authorised by the Health Products Regulatory Authority. However, from March 1 many items will be considered food supplements and will be liable for the standard rate of VAT at 23%.
"This new treatment is extremely broad. Many items have a zero rate of VAT and will now be subject to 23% VAT.
"This will mean that the cost of those items is likely to increase substantially over the coming months and that is the biggest fear that people who are coming into my clinics have been expressing.
"I had a lady in with me recently who is on Macushield. It is a macro degeneration and it costs about €25 per box. That will go up by €5.75 extra so it will be €31.
"These are elderly people who have come to my clinic and that is just one example. We have continually asked the Minister to review this issue and to address these concerns but we do not seem to be taken seriously.
"We need to help the people that need these supplements. There are people who genuinely need these supplements and they will not be able to afford them."